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Tim's Travel Page

Many people in the radio hobby, myself included, combine their interest in radio with a love of travel and geography. One listens to distant radio stations and is curious to see and learn about the places from which they emanate. On this page, I will summarize my notes regarding motels, roads, restaurants, etc., whenever I am able to travel. I will also use this space to update my hobby of county collecting, a pursuit I began on 1 January 1995 that counts only those counties I have visited since that date. This page will consciously avoid discussion of radio matters such as formats, but may contain discussion of station/tower site visits.

I conceived this page on 6 May 1998 and will include details of my travels beginning then, with the most recent on top.

For earlier trips from 1998 and 1999, see page 1.

Indianapolis-Toledo Trip, 10-14 July 2000

In our continuing effort to visit all the significant art museums in this part of the country that hold collections of European paintings, I had the idea a few years ago that we could do a single trip devoted to the museums in Detroit, Toledo, and Indianapolis. All these are collections with considerable reputations, and of course they are not too far from one another. As it turned out, we went to the museum in Detroit in '98, and so this trip was intended to catch the other two. We had just gotten back from the trip around Lake Michigan a few weeks ago, but this is how Jill's work schedule fell, and so these were the two weeks this year when we could get away. Of course, our plans included some new counties, radio markets, and traditional tourist attractions.

Over night before we left some thunderstorms passed through the area, and the weather alarm went off a number of times. Resisting my instinct to get up to write the new warning into the weather log, I always went back to sleep, trying to be rested for the upcoming day's drive. But when we got up, it was still raining, and we delayed beginning to load the minivan. The Weather Channel radar suggested that the rain would end soon, and it did, so we were able to load in little or no rain, and the remainder of the first day was dry, but warm and humid. There is, of course, an obvious route from Madison to Indianapolis, through Chicago and down I-65. But that would not yield any new counties, and we didn't mind avoiding Chicago's traffic the first morning, so we took a path south on Hwy 47 from Kane county, along the western edge of Chicagoland. Here we made a lunch stop for 99-cent double cheeseburgers at McDonald's in Yorkville, and streched our legs and took care of diapers. There is a group of counties SW and S of Chicago that represented my closest needed ones, and our route carefully touched them all. We turned east on 116 in Livingston county, and then went out of our way up I-57 to Kankakee, before entering Indiana. Here we hugged the western border on US-41 and then Hwy 63, turning east on I-74, again catching a series of needed counties and noting the CP in Kentland on 101.7 not yet on. (In Kentland US-41 was closed for a stretch, and we detoured through town for a short time.) Gas in Boswell seemed so low at 1.44, but we would find it for even less. When it came time to enter I-74 in northern Vermillion county, we found detour signs prior to reaching it. Had we taken the detour, we would not have touched Vermillion, so we drove on, only to find the ramp onto the interstate closed. But now we had the county, so we turned around and went back a mile or so and followed the detour. It took some extra time, but we did get to go through the radio towns of Covington and Veedersburg. After getting onto I-74, we made a rest area stop and picked up some Indiana motel coupon books. In one, we found a coupon for the one we had reserved; more on that shortly. As we got into the Speedway area, we found the Super 8 (on High School) and noted that it was across the street from the Motel 6 where we attended the DecalcoMania meeting back in '91. When we asked about the coupon--i.e., will this give us a better deal than the VIP card--the answer was yes, but we couldn't use it with more than two people, since it applies only to rooms with one bed. But the room was still affordable and quite satisfactory. The advertised pool was full of dirt. Jill went out to get dinner while I watched the boys, and she brought Long John Silver's, something we hadn't had in a while; the chain is in WI, but not here in Madison. I had some good fish with great cole slaw.

On Tuesday morning we stopped into the Motel 6 across the street for a current directory, needed later in the trip, and took a couple photos of the Speedway. Then it was time to go to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and that was not an easy task: more than once, the road that would take us there was closed for construction, and we had to seek alternates. But we made it, parked in the free lot, and headed inside, where admission is also free.

The collection is quite substantial, probably more so than we expected. Perhaps the main attraction (among European paintings, anyway) is an early Rembrandt Self-Portrait, dated c. 1629, when he was in his early twenties. The commentary that accompanied it informed us that he painted at least 75 self-portraits, but in spite of their number, Rembrandts remain precious in view of his tremendous stature in the history of art. There was a Nativity thought to be the work of Fra Angelico, one of my favorite painters, in a nice room that featured a modern harpsichord on display. Also of note was the Ecce homo by Hieronymus Bosch, a work in his inimitable style, and one of Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun's beautiful portaits from the 1770s. As usual, we bought a book with reproductions of selected works, and then headed for the van.

We headed across Indianapolis on city streets, stopping for lunch at the obligatory Steak & Shake (on Massachusetts and 46th) where I had a taco salad (and loved it). We got gas before leaving the metro for 1.38, the lowest of the trip. Now it was time to drive northeast to Lima. Our route was fairly direct, following 67 (not I-69, to get Hancock county) past Anderson and Muncie to Portland. In Anderson we stopped to buy milk for the boys and noticed the Chamber of Commerce nearby; I stopped in and got a nice free map. In Portland we happened upon the 1440/100.9 studio just after 5 p.m. and pulled in. I found the door unlocked, and the person running the station kindly answered my questions (but could not find any stickers). The AM is AC and the FM country, and both are on just 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for now; they are thinking of computerizing and going 24 hours. The two towers, one with the 3-bay FM, are right there at the studio. We went north out of Portland to catch Adams county, and then headed east into Lima for the night's motel.This was my first visit to Lima (at least since childhood), and I can only wish that we lived in a four-dimensional world so I could have attended the NRC Convention while there. But alas, we have but three. I did not have a map of Lima, and did not get one until soon before leaving town the next morning. I did some taping and monitoring, but a proper visit to Lima, now with map in hand, must wait for next time. Our motel was the local Super 8; the room had a door on either side, one leading to a courtyard and the other to the hallway. Using the courtyard door made loading and unloading the room much easier. This motel, too, was nice but not exceptional. There were a couple radio towers nearby, and I don't know what stations they were. We had dinner at Shoney's next door, eating from the buffet.

Wednesday was the day most in doubt in this trip; we were trying to do something, and didn't know whether it would be possible...but it was. Out of Lima we drove north initially to Columbus Grove to pick up needed Putnam county, and then followed Hwy 12 to Findlay, Fostoria, and Fremont. In Findlay we got gas for 1.40, and found 12 closed at one point; the detour led us to the Chamber of Commerce, where I got a nice free map.

Our destination was Port Clinton, where we planned to visit Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. This is a National Parks Service site, and in planning the trip we noticed that we would be near it and could pick up a visit and Passport postmark. The memorial, however, stands on Put-in-Bay island, and one must take a ferry to get there. We wondered how frequent they are, and how affordable, and whether we would have enough time after driving in from Lima. We asked for information at the Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce (where we got a free map) and learned of two available ferry lines of considerably different price ranges. The less expensive is Miller, and we learned that we need to head up the Catawba Island peninsula on Hwy 53 to get there. So we did, and we found parking both free and $4-5. We got a free spot in a lot a few blocks away and walked in to get our ferry tickets. The boats leave every half hour during most of the daylight hours, and are $5 per person one way (an odd way to put it, I thought: we aren't moving there). The boys were free. We bought tickets, got in line, and boarded quite soon. They told us strollers were allowed, but when we got there, there were steps to climb; they let us leave the stroller at the bottom, and that worked out fine. The boat ride takes 18 minutes, and the monument, as well as the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant, were visible in the distance. It was a fun and very windy ride. When we got to the island we learned that it is more than two miles to the monument, but they'd be glad to take 1.50 per person (kids free) to bus us to it, again, one way. We had no choice, loaded the stroller in the back of the bus, and rode across the island. There are a lot of tourist attractions on the island, and one would need the better part of a day to see it all. The monument was our destination, and we walked a moderate distance to it. It's beautiful and impressive (though less so than the Washington Monument, I'd say), and we were surprised that we hadn't known of it all these years. We got postmarks at the Vistor Center outside it, arranged to leave the stroller there, and entered the monument.

Inside are names of men involved in the War of 1812 actions that led to the long-standing peace between Canada and the United States, a peace commemorated by this monument. One can climb steps to a circular area, waiting in line to board the elevator to the observation deck. From the bottom of the steps it is a 25- to 30-minute wait, and we started just past that point. Soon before boarding the elevator there is a ranger ready to collect $3 per adult (kids free again). People under 16 have to be accompanied by an adult, and two teens in front of us were too young and had to leave after waiting for almost a half hour (and failing to read the signs). When we ascended we were told that it was the second clearest day of the season and that you could see Canada on the extreme horizon (and we did). We enjoyed the view, took some pictures, and headed back down. We took the same bus back and boarded the ferry again, now sitting facing the island (i.e., moving backward). The seagulls would glide at the same speed as the boat, affording us the chance to watch them in flight, seemingly hovering motionless. We arrived back at the van quite tired and a good deal poorer, but very glad we made the visit.

Our motel reservation was in Toledo, so we headed west on Hwy 2, avoiding the Turnpike. Along that route we went right past the nuclear power plant we saw in the distance earlier, getting closer to one than ever before, and took pictures. We listened to WCWA ("Seaway") 1230 Toledo's live standards and old-fashioned jingles, and it was my favorite station of the trip. I heard Frank Sinatra's "Pocket Full of Miracles" for the first time in many years. Heading into town in Oregon we saw the Toledo TV towers, and stopped in town to mark the 1470 array on the map. Before going to the motel, we went north into Monroe country MI to get the county, and then proceeded to the Super 8 Motel in suburban Maumee. This is a "Pride of Super 8" location, and was among the nicest Super 8s we've seen. We stayed at another in the last trip, and really think that the small additional cost rents a far nicer room. We had a great Pizza Hut pizza delivered for dinner.

Thursday was different from Wednesday for one big reason: we were already near our destination for the day. So we could sleep later, and made a stop at a Meijer for a city map to replace the old and hard-to-read one we had along. We had lunch at Taco Bell, and then headed across town to the Toledo Museum of Art, stopping on the way at the apparent 1230 tower, adjacent to a Teamsters building. Arriving at the museum, we paid $1 to park, and admission was again free. The museum is impressive architecturally, and its collection of European paintings is too. We saw two more portraits by Vigree-Lebrun, an Agony in the Garden by El Greco and in his very distinctive style, and Venus and Cupid by Guido Reni, a Baroque artist whose work has been uncommon at galleries we have visited. There are two Rembrandts in the collection. At the museum shop we bought a book again, and in it learned that the gallery owns a miniature version of the Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David, a painting I have long known from my course work. But we did not see it walking through the galleries. We learned where it was supposed to be, went there, and found out from the attendant that it is on loan! A good reason to return some day. We left as the museum closed at 4, and visited the 1370 transmitter site before entering the Ohio Turnpike and leaving town.

Our destination was South Bend, our last motel, and like Lima, a stopover point that just happens to be a radio market. We followed the Ohio Turnpike with our ticket and paid 2.50 at the end, and it cost 2.40 to exit the Indiana Toll Road at South Bend. Our motel was the Motel 6, which was, as promised, clean and comfortable, though smaller than most two-bed rooms. Jill and Chris walked to a nearby Fazoli's and we had a great Italian supper in the room. In the morning we spent a good while--until about 3--driving around South Bend. We had a McDonald's lunch and got milk for the boys, and visited several transmitter sites. I especially wanted to see and photograph the 1620 site; before leaving home I learned that 1580 shares the site. When we got there we never did find out how to get close to the towers, only seeing them through trees, so we did not get a picture. There are three short towers in a line, with no red stripes. We caught the nearby 103.9 site, went past 1490's nice tower across from Notre Dame University, and headed to the south end of town where the TV towers are. We saw the 4-tower 960 array and visited Lesea Broadcasting, home of local FMs, channel 46, and shortwave station WHRI. (I have still never been to its transmitter site at Noblesville IN.) After plotting a number of towers on the map, we headed across town and entered the Toll Road again to head home. On it, we had a pleasant rest area stop.

The drive through Chicago was pleasantly surprising. I'll admit that I made an error, intending to take the Tri-State Tollway but ending up on the Skyway; I still don't know where the mistake occurred. But we've taken the Skyway less often, and the traffic really wasn't bad at all, considering that it was a Friday afternoon drive time. Jill took some skyline pictures as we passed close to downtown. It was not a stressful drive at all, and that's not what I expected. Our dinner stop was at Shakey's Buffet in Janesville, which was as good as ever, and we got home at 10:13. 1305 miles total.

Tim's new counties:
IL: Kendall, Grundy, Ford, Iroquois, Kankakee
new total: 62/102 = 60.8%
IN: Benton, Warren, Fountain, Vermillion, Montgomery, Hancock, Madison, Delaware, Randolph, Jay, Adams
new total: 51/92 = 55.4%
OH: Mercer, Van Wert, Allen, Putnam, Hancock, Seneca
new total: 38/88 = 43.2%
MI: Monroe; new total: 59/83 = 71.1%
Tim's new total: 427/3141 = 13.59%
Chris's new counties:
the same, plus
IN: Boone, Hendricks, Marion
OH: Sandusky, Ottawa, Lucas, Fulton, Williams
IN: Steuben, Lagrange, Elkhart, St. Joseph
Chris's new total: 206/3141 = 6.56%
Paul's new counties:
the same, plus
IL: Livingston
Paul's new total: 134/3141 = 4.27%

Lake Michigan Trip, 19-23 June 2000

We had the idea of a trip circling Lake Michigan after talking to a friend who did something similar, especially because it would afford us the opportunity to visit some areas for the first time, or at least since childhood. It would be the longest and most ambitious trip we have taken since the boys were born, and the first really substantial one since Paul came along in late 1998.

We left Monday morning in beautiful weather, travelling from Madison via Chicago to our motel in Cadillac. That's a long drive, and the aim of this first day was just to get there, catching lots of radio and counties along the way. The day broke itself into two parts quite naturually: first, get past Chicago, and then, make that long drive up to Cadillac. The drive into Chicago was problem-free, and while I never particulary look forward to facing its traffic, I always find driving in Chicago exhilarating, and did again. Traffic was amazingly light well into the metro; we took the Northwest Tollway and the Tri-State Tollway. Tolls are 40 cents, and we passed eight of them. Of course, we paid attention to the price of gas throughout the trip, and the highest we ever saw was at one of the Oases: 2.17. Traffic got heavy, with construction delays, in the southern part of the metro, and the smooth sailing stopped for a while, but we were moving again on I-80/94 heading into Indiana. I was careful to the note the tower sites of 1530, 1300, 1570, and 560 along the route. Driving through Chicagoland I worked on a survey of the FM dial, and Jill kindly took notes. By the time we were past the city, that survey was about done, and I tuned to WFMT 98.7 in time to hear the last five or so magnificent minutes of Brahms's First Symphony.

We stopped for food at a Burger King in Portage, finding Whoppers at 2 for $2. I checked longwave beacons while Jill bought the food, and she got a 1944-S penny in change! Portage looked like a nice area, and I wondered where the 750 site is, without any plans to hunt for it.

As we entered Michigan we were pleased to note the 70-mph limit. We got gas in Grand Rapids for 2.05, and headed out of town not on 131, but on 37, a plan that would add Muskegon and Newaygo counties. Taking 82 east from Newaygo, we started up 131, with a detour west at Reed City to get Lake county. Then it was on to Cadillac, where we stayed at the Super 8 on the southwest side. The motel was clearly not originally a Super 8, but the room was fine, and Jill and Chris enjoyed the nice indoor pool. We got some pizza delivered for dinner, and I got going on taping and monitoring the many and spread-out stations of the Northwest Michigan market.

We originally planned to stay in Cadillac this first night and then in Traverse City the second; when we learned how much more expensive Traverse City is, that changed. Staying in the same motel for two nights, of course, saves a lot of loading and unloading. So, on Tuesday, we toured areas west and north of Cadillac, saving the more northerly areas for Wednesday. On Tuesday morning, it was cloudy and looked like rain. We began by driving around Cadillac, first stopping to get a map at the Chamber of Commerce, and then driving around to start to learn our way around. We saw the 1370 towers, and stopped at the studio of the TCM simulcast FMs and got some stickers.

Heading out of town to the northwest, we then went to our first "tourist attraction" of the trip (passing the 103.5 tower on the way): the American Elm, a large tree thought to date from the sixteenth century. A friend passed us some information about it earlier, indicating that it is near Buckley, south of Traverse City. We went to Buckley and asked at a grocery store whether they knew where the tree is. They had a box of small maps showing its location--so I take it my question was a common one. Using the map, we found our way to the tree in a rural area near the town. It has numerous trunks that seem all to have grown into each other. Between the tree and the road was a chair with a box with information and an invitation to sign a register. By now it was raining lightly, but we got photos and walked up and touched the tree--surely the oldest living thing we have ever encountered. It was probably there that I picked up the caterpillar that I found under my collar soon after.

Next we drove into Frankfort and up the coast to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We looked at exhibits in the Visitor Center, and of course got Passport stamps. This was Paul's first National Park Service site, and we bought him his book; they're up to 6.95 now.

Next, we drove into Traverse City, interested in getting an initial familiarity with the city. We got a nice map at the Chamber of Commerce, and drove around town a good while. We found a number of the area transmitter sites, including 1400/89.9, 101.9, 1310, and 580. 1400 is, of course, licensed to Elmwood Township, and I learned just where that is. Michigan, as far as I am aware, has more stations licensed to townships than any other state (though the majority are now of application status only). I had wondered why, but I also noted that Michigan marks its townships with road signs more than I have seen elsewhere, so that started to make more sense. We concluded our visit to Traverse City by driving up the peninsula to the Old Mission Lighthouse. Before we reached it, a winery caught our eye, and we stopped in. There are around ten wineries in northern Michigan, and wine has been made in the area since the 1970s. We were told that the climate there is quite similar to that of Germany, and thus the specialty of this winery--Chateau Grand Traverse--is Riesling, a variety we have enjoyed in the past. We tasted some, and took a bottle along. This wine is available mainly in Michigan and the Chicago area, and not in Wisconsin. Then it was up to the tip of the peninsula for a look at the lighthouse and lakeshore. The red rocks on the beach made it look like Mars (at least the parts of it Man has seen). There are signs to indicate that the 45th parallel is a short distance offshore at this point. We took some pictures and headed back to the motel in Cadillac.

We woke up Wednesday to clear skies, and it proved to be a beautiful day. Before leaving the Cadillac area we visited a few studio and tower sites, including the mighty 92.9/channel 9 tower at the 9/10 studio and the Fox 33/45 studio. Then we headed up to Charlevoix and pulled over at the Chamber of Commerce for the usual map. It is a beautiful town, and with the blue sky, the water was gorgeous. It seemed busy with tourists, more so than the other area cities we visited. After driving around town some more, we went east to Petoskey. A couple months or so ago I read in the Sunday paper's Parade magazine of towns that have preserved old-fashioned downtowns, and two of those listed were Chippewa Falls WI and Petoskey. And they were right: it is a downtown of nice non-chain shops. Nothing about it is touristy, it was not crowded, and we had a really pleasant visit. Here too, the water was a wonderfully deep, rich blue. I made a point of being at the van at the top of the hour to tape a legal ID from the new WWKK 750. As usual, we drove around town for a while before heading north, being sure to touch Cheboygan county.

Now it was time to cross the Mackinac Bridge. (Don't ask me how to pronounce the "M" word in its various manifestations; talking to people and listening to the radio, I can't seem to come up with a consistent answer.) It is a tremendous bridge and an incredible feat of engineering, which of course links the Lower and Upper Peninsulas and divides Lakes Michigan and Huron. The toll for a car is 1.50. By this point we were more than ready for the night's motel, the Super 8 in St. Ignace. It is a "Pride of Super 8" location, and was very nice, considering the price.

I have long been aware of the many simulcasting stations in this region. Now having been there, it is clear why this is: the northwest Michigan "market" is spread out over so much territory that if a broadcaster wants to cover it all, one transmitter just isn't enough. Another thing that struck me on this trip: it is obvious enough that Michigan and Wisconsin are similar in shape, but I noticed that the locations of, respectively, Detroit, Lansing (the capital), and Bay City are analogous to Milwaukee, Madison (the capital), and Green Bay. You've probably noticed that, but I hadn't.

We planned this trip fairly carefully, taking sightseeing, counties, radio markets, and cost all into consideration. So before we left, we knew that Thursday would be a long day. Out of St. Ignace (where we stopped to take some bridge photos before leaving town, and noted that the Father Marquette Museum there was destroyed by fire in March 2000) we headed north to Sault Ste. Marie. Right away, we crossed the bridge into the Ontario side (people call them "Sault Michigan" and "Sault Ontario"). The main point here was to give Paul his first visit to Canada. The bridge toll was 1.50 again. After a little driving around, we stopped at the tourist information building, where we found people to be uncommonly friendly and accommodating. I picked up some maps, of course, we drove around some more, and then we went back to Michigan after perhaps 45 minutes. We did not spend much more time in the area; we did a food stop and I did a little taping while there. We stopped at the Michigan tourist information center to ask a question: there are two obvious routes to get to Paradise, our next planned stop; which is shorter/better? We learned that they both take the same amount of time, but the lakeshore one is more scenic (not surprising), so we took it. It was pretty, but it was cool (50 degrees in Sault Ste. Marie, and we wore jackets) with some drizzle and fog. Our destination was the Shipwreck Museum; we had seen it listed as being in Paradise, but it is north of there, at Whitefish Point. The powers of the Lake Superior waters in that region have led to a number of tragic losses, and the museum beautifully chronicles the events and honors those lost. The shipwrecks represented date well back into the nineteenth century, but probably the most touching is the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, with its loss of 29 men. This tragedy, having taken place so recently as November 1975, is one full of living memory. The museum houses the ship's bell, raised from the wreckage. A replica of the bell, engraved with the names of the lost men, was lowered in its place. We also toured the lighthouse on the same grounds; all one can really see are living quarters, though. At $7 for adults and $4 for children (even babies), this is an expensive attraction (there is a $20 family rate). It is well worth it, though, for those travelling without significant budgetary concerns; the museum is really beautifully done.

Our next stop was Tahquamenon Falls, said to be the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi, with the obvious exception of Niagara Falls. It is in a state park, and thus costs $4 to visit. There are two locations: the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls. The lower (and easternmost) is a bit distant and not so impressive; the one that is second to Niagara is the Upper Falls, about four miles to the west. There you can walk a path of .4 miles with various points that offer views of the falls, each one closer than the last. At the end, you can descend 94 steps and get a terrific close-up view. This is really worth seeing, but skip the Lower Falls if your time is short!

I said that Thursday was going to be a long day, and that is because we now needed to drive all the way to Iron Mountain for the overnight stay. As we proceeded west through the UP, gas prices steadily decreased; we paid 1.99 in Manistique. We stopped at WNBY Newberry, just south of town on 123. It is a true "mom and pop" radio station, very friendly, with an AM that signs off at 10. It is such a treat to find stations like this, instead of six stations in one building all run by some national firm. We passed through Escanaba without stopping, and then got to the Iron Mountain Super 8 for the night.

Friday morning was warm and partly sunny, though we had some rain midday. First, we drove around town as usual (I already had a map), and we cashed in our cans. Aluminum soda cans carry a 10-cent surcharge in Michigan, which is refunded when you return the (uncrushed) empties. Stores will pay for them if they sell the beverage in question, as long as the cans have the Michigan 10c engraving on top. It seems like it would be a really effective way to encourage people to recycle, but it also seems like it could often be a real inconvenience. At home, we bag ours and take them to the recycling center. We left town on a road that got the elusive Florence county WI for the boys, and then headed south on US-41. We stopped in my dad's home town, Oconto Falls, and visited WOCO. My comments on WOCO are the same as with WNBY, except that I fondly remember several past visits to WOCO when up there with my parents. Next we went, via Green Bay, around the bottom of the bay to catch Kewaunee and Door counties for the boys, and then got back onto US-41 and went into Appleton. There we had dinner at a new location (for us, that is) of one of our favorites: Shakey's Buffet. The dinner was great, we hopped in the van, and, after taking a picture of a channel 26 billboard, we went home (monitoring various FMs). 1332 miles total.

Tim's new counties in MI: Muskegon, Newaygo, Montcalm, Mecosta, Osceola, Lake, Wexford, Grand Traverse, Manistee, Benzie, Leelanau, Missaukee, Kalkaska, Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, Cheboygan, Mackinac, Chippewa, Luce; now 58/83 = 69.9%
New Total: 404/3141 = 12.86%
Chris's new counties: the same, plus MI: Schoolcraft, Delta, Menominee, Dickinson (now 45/83) and WI: Florence, Marinette, Oconto, Kewaunee, Door (now 65/72)
Chris's New Total: 170/3141
Paul's new counties: the same, plus IL: Boone, Kane, Cook; IN: Lake, Porter, La Porte; MI: Berrien, Van Buren, Allegan, Ottawa, Kent; WI: Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Dodge
Paul's New Total: 97/3141

La Crosse Trip, 20-21 March 2000

For years I have been aware of various radio-related sites I have never visited in La Crosse, and have had a visit in mind as a high priority. Jill learned of a personal holiday she had to use up, and my spring break was coming up, so we planned two days in La Crosse. The weather permitted, to a point, and at least the trip was entirely snow-free.

We got on the road Monday morning in drizzly, cool weather. Figuring that we were well on schedule, we decided to make one stop prior to La Crosse (except food, etc.): Tomah, a city with four stations all of which I have never visited. We found the Chamber of Commerce and got a city and county map, each better and more up to date than those I had on file. WTMB 1460 and the two FMs (94.5 and 96.1) are on the north end of town in a complex of business offices. I had a friendly visit, though the people I spoke to did not know the answers to all my questions and the person who would was too busy. From there we found the 98.9 VCY affiliate, chancing upon the 1460 tower on the way; the tower is very close to the 98.9 building and a bit away from the estimated location I got from the Internet. WVCX was very friendly, and had a big coverage map on the wall. I commented on how well they reach Madison. Internet searches showed that the towers of 94.5 and 98.9 were both south of town on or near Highway 131. This is where the key word for Monday came in: fog. The area is fairly high, and visibility was quite poor. The roads in this area all had new names since my old map, and we still wonder why. We found 94.5 right where it was supposed to be, but could not see the top. We could not find 98.9, even though we knew it had three white strobe lights. All we could do was continue toward La Crosse.

Actually, our plan was to pass up La Crosse for the time being and head into Houston county MN, where a number of La Crosse market stations' towers are located. First stop was Caledonia, the county seat, because I had no map on which to note the tower locations. We got a map, and some food at the Dairy Queen, and then drove north out of town to catch the 94.7 Caledonia tower. After finding it (with no fog problem) we headed toward Tschumper Rd, west of La Crescent, to find the cluster of La Crosse TV-FM towers. We found it, and once again, high terrain meant that we could only see the bottom of the towers. The 19 tower is at the studio, so I made a quick visit. We noted the locations of the towers on the map, and they matched the Internet data I collected beforehand very well. From there it was down Highway 26 in eastern Houston county, where three more towers are supposed to be. But the riverfront terrain there is rough, and the towers were probably on the bluffs that are all over, invisible from the road. We never found any of the three.

Now it was time to go into La Crosse, first stopping at the Chamber of Commerce to try to replace my 1984 city map. The 2000 models were overdue, so I had to settle for a 1996. Then it was time to head to the motel. We reserved the Super 8 on Rose, a "Pride of Super 8" location, and it was very nice indeed. It has a big pool and whirlpool, and better-than-usual continental breakfast, and a big cable menu. I liked the high TV stand that allowed me to have radios turned on out of reach of 3-year-old fingers. We had carry-out Pizza Hut for dinner, and it was the best pizza we'd had in a long time.

Phone book work with two different books revealed that some local stations have been moving. I did not fully find out where all the locals were until I actually visited the addresses. Tuesday morning and afternoon we covered the local studio and tower locations, finding the one-tower sites of 1490 and 1570, each of which I had never seen. One building in Onalaska, north of town, has six stations in it, the biggest combination in town; another has four. I found all the stations friendly and glad to answer my questions.

There has to be time for some non-radio tourism too, and in the afternoon we did some. On the way to the 88.9 tower we climbed and climbed and got up to "Grandad Bluff," which offers a great view from over a tenth of a mile above the city. We recommend a stop here when you are in town; there are no costs involved. It would look even better in clear weather, no doubt. Then, after a stop at the five 580 towers, we visited Valley View Mall. It's a very nice, quite large mall, and we had a pleasant time. We caught a photo of a 95.7 busboard outside it.

After the mall and a little more driving around town, we headed home, being sure to allow some daylight for a return visit to the Tomah towers, now no longer shrouded in fog. We found them and headed home, with a total of 573 miles. No new counties for me or for Chris; Paul got state no. 5 in MN and two new counties in MN, Winona and Houston, plus one in WI (La Crosse), bringing his total to 57.