North East RadioWatch: May 14, 2001

Greater Media Buys in New Jersey

by Scott Fybush

With a fairly light week's worth of news, let's make good on our promise to recap some of the highlights of our April trip west, shall we?

The flights in and out of Phoenix were just enough less expensive than Vegas to offer a reasonable excuse for the detour, so we touched down at Sky Harbor Airport on a nice Friday morning to begin our weeklong odyssey. Picking up the rental NERWmobile (it's kind of like Air Force One, you see: whatever we're driving becomes the NERWmobile for the duration), we headed for the west side of town: Tolleson.

A turn off the dusty main street brought us to KMYL (1190)'s three towers, with the old "KRDS" calls still on the transmitter building. Just a bit to the east, we found the two top-hatted sticks of the other Tolleson station, religious KXEG (1010).

From there, it was back east into Phoenix, after a stop at the three towers of KPXQ (1360) on Phoenix's west side. KPXQ now runs 50 kilowatts by day, one of the more powerful AM signals in the valley.

The impoverished neighborhoods southwest of downtown are home to many of the city's AM signals: in a short drive we picked up the three towers of sports KMVP (860), the three towers of Spanish KPHX (1480), the two towers of Spanish news/talk KIDR (740) and the three towers of Spanish romantica KASA (1540).

From all those sites, the star attraction was easily visible just to the south: South Mountain, home to all of the city's TVs and most of the FM signals, too. You can see that in detail at Tower Site of the Week, so we won't recount it in detail here.

Down from the mountain, we headed north to the single towers of Spanish ranchera KSUN (1400) and news-talk KFYI (550). The latter was relatively unimpressive for a heritage station, the former KOY, but then this is a fairly recent site, having moved just in the 1980s.

Following I-10 east and south around South Mountain took us to Ahwatukee and Guadeloupe, on the east edge of the hill, and the studio of KUPD (97.9) and KDUS (1060), though the signs still called 1060 by its old calls, KUKQ. The 1060 towers, three of them, sit just to the north, easily glimpsed from I-10.

Traffic slowed down as we drove through Tempe, past Arizona State University and the KAET (Channel 8) studios, then back west again to the KNXV (Channel 15) studios, a new building on the Phoenix/Tempe line. Two more stops awaited us before checking in to the motel to set up the VCRs for an evening of Phoenix TV: the four towers of KGME (910), just west of I-17 and north of downtown, and the studios of KPHO-TV (Channel 5), on the I-17 frontage road a mile or so away. (There's a connection here: 910 was the old KPHO radio, back when it operated from the Westward Ho Hotel downtown. Remember the opening shot of Psycho, and the hotel with the self-supporting AM tower on the roof? That's the one, and it still stands on Central Avenue downtown...)

After getting the VCRs rolling, it was back out to the car for another 90 minutes or so of twilight tower-hunting. First stop: KTAR (620)'s two towers, so widely spaced that they built an entire shopping center on the land between them. Just down the street sits KAZG (1440), an old self-supporter in the lot of a lumberyard.

Heading east into Mesa, we found the six towers of KMIK (1580), the old KNIX(AM) and a 50 kW signal heard widely throughout the West. A few blocks away sit the two towers of KXAM (1310 Mesa), a little talk station that covers the West Valley but not much else.

From there, it was back into downtown Phoenix and an evening of watching the Diamondbacks defeat the Colorado Rockies at Bank One Ballpark ("BOB" to the locals!)

Saturday dawned much colder, with the forecast for Flagstaff calling for, yes, snow. But a plan's a plan, so we awoke far too early and headed north on Cave Creek Road out of Phoenix, past the site shared by KFNN (1510 Mesa) and KCTK (960 Phoenix), up to Carefree Highway (which would make a good name for a Gordon Lightfoot tune, wouldn't it) and the KFNX (1100 Cave Creek) towers, and from there to I-17 and two hours north to Flagstaff.

On the way up, we checked out some of the sounds from the Prescott market, particularly KAHM (102.1), one of the last beautiful music stations in America. "Calm" was doing live news and weather, and still calling for a chilly day up in Flagstaff.

Sure enough, by the time we got there it was 31 degrees and the snow was falling (in Arizona! in late April! What the...?), but we dutifully made the rounds, stopping on the east side of town for the studios of KNAZ-TV (Channel 2) and the studio/transmitter of KVNA (600), part of a combo with AC KVNA-FM (97.5) and rocker KZGL (95.9 Cottonwood). A small studio building on Route 66 downtown accounted for another cluster, oldies KWMX (96.7 Williams), country "Kolt" KSED (107.5 Sedona) and AAA-ish KFLX (105.1 Kachina Village), while another studio facility on 66 west of town was home to country KAFF (930) and KAFF-FM (92.9). The KAFF(AM) tower was just north of 66 nearby, while most of the FMs and TVs are on Mormon Mountain, 30 miles or so south of town.

Heading west on old 66 and new I-40, we arrived in Williams, one of the "classic" route 66 towns. The tower of KYET (1180) was easy enough to find, in the city fairgrounds east of downtown, but it might not be there anymore. The station was apparently feuding with the city over its lease on the land, and was slated to go dark April 30 unless the issue was resolved. On the air, KYET was running announcements asking listeners to call the city council and ask them to save their "local" station - which would carry more weight if KYET's studios weren't hours away in Kingman!

Go north an hour from Williams on Arizona 64 and US 180 and you'll arrive at the Grand Canyon, and that's just what we did, after a quick stop behind a motel in Tusayan (10 miles south of the canyon) to find the antenna for KSGC (92.1 Tusayan), the local radio station at the Canyon. While we were there, we noticed a very strong KSGC signal on 92.5 as well, though it faded rapidly as we drove away. Could KSGC be doing its studio-transmitter link in plain sight like that? We've seen it done like that elsewhere, so we wouldn't be surprised.

As for the world's most famous hole in the ground: we never saw it. No, really: not only was the wind blowing and the snow snowing, there was so little visibility that we could barely see below the South Rim, much less all the way down to the canyon floor. And so it was that we set out to the east...only to have the snow stop and the sky clear just as we passed the "Leaving National Park" sign.

Fortunately, the view along the canyon east of the park was still plenty spectacular, and the radio became somewhat more interesting as we turned on to US 89 north heading towards Page. KGHR, 91.5 out of Tuba City, is a Navajo-run rock station (really), while KTBA 1050 is English-language religion.

In Page itself, a small town overlooking Lake Powell at the northern edge of Arizona, KPGE 1340 was doing satellite oldies, while KXAZ 93.3 was satellite rock. Crossing over the Glen Canyon Dam and entering Utah, we switched over to KONY (101.1) from Kanab as we drove through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, through Kanab itself, and over towards Zion National Park along Utah 9.

If you take nothing else away from this travelogue, please remember these two things: first, you've got to visit Zion National Park someday. Even in our limited time there (the hours just approaching sunset on this very long Saturday), we were awed by the drive down the red highway, through the psychedelic rock formations, into the long tunnel along the canyon wall, and then out into the canyon itself before suddenly dropping down a half-dozen hairpin turns to the canyon floor and out of the park.

The second bit of advice comes from fellow radio traveler George Greene: Check out the FM dial just as you burst out of the tunnel and before you start descending. George says you can hear Las Vegas from up there, and who am I to argue?

As darkness set in, we pointed the NERW-mobile down Utah 9 to I-15 and into St. George, Utah for an evening of Salt Lake City TV. Stay tuned to part two of our travelogue, next week here in NERW, for the rest of our travels through St. George, Las Vegas, Kingman and vicinity, then back to Phoenix and the plane home. We'll see you then!

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