North East RadioWatch: July 20, 1999

NERW On The Road: Rochester to Sudbury

by Scott Fybush

Hello from the Great White North -- well, Sudbury, Ontario, anyway. This is the first in a series of "On the Road" updates you'll be receiving as your NERW editors make our way across Ontario, into Michigan, and back home.

This year's NERW trip began (for co-editor Garrett Wollman) in Boston on Monday, and kicked into high gear as we left Rochester Tuesday morning. We listened to the new "Dancin' Oldies B92.9" as we drove through Buffalo, then sped across the border, up through the Toronto suburbs (passing the former CBL and still CJBC site in Hornby as we went), where we came across a format change. CKDX (88.5 Newmarket) was trying to do dance-CHR for the northern end of the Toronto market, but the competition became too fierce, especially when CISS (92.5 Toronto) went CHR (with, briefly, the same "Power" nickname CKDX used). As of Monday, CKDX has become "Cat Country," with the format CISS used to use before its own flip.

With CKDX still coming in as we drove north on Highway 400, we came to Barrie, which looks much as it did the last time we were there, a year and a half ago -- with perhaps a bit more yellow paint on the front of the CKVR (Channel 3) building and the demolition of long-defunct CKBB (950) the only items of note.

On we went to Orillia, and after getting lost for an hour or so, we regained our bearings, found the studios of "EZ Rock 105.9" (CICX) in an industrial park, then found the transmitter for CICX and the CBC's CBCO (91.5) south of town. There was no remaining sign of CICX's predecessor, CFOR (1570).

From Orillia, we cut to the west and the Midland-Penetanguishene area, where we kept getting our call letters confused, thanks to CICZ (104.1), which calls itself "KICX Country." Its studios were also in an industrial park, also off Highway 12, just across the road from the old tower of CICZ's AM predecessor, CKMP (1230), which was of course long since silent. Also silent, but unexpectedly, was CFRH (101.9), the low-power voice of Penetanguishene's French-speaking community. We did see its studios in a building downtown, though.

And after that, it was time for the long, long haul north on Highway 400, then 69, through Parry Sound, where we found the studios of CKLP (103.3) downtown just down the street from the Bobby Orr Community Centre, and its transmitter east of town near Highway 69. Sharing the stick were CBC low-power CBLP (89.9) and CBPO (88.9), another low-power thingy relaying Environment Canada weather radio.

The radio dial -- like the trees -- became more sparse as we continued towards Sudbury, with occasional sounds from Michigan, like WHSB (107.7 Alpena), poking in. And at long last, Highway 69 bent west into Sudbury, and we turned off at a road we were sure would lead to CIGM (790). After all, the road was called "CKSO Road," and CKSO was the old call for 790, right? Of course, the road dead-ended with no CKSO, but a quick check of the GPS unit guided us a bit east to the correct road and the six-tower CIGM site.

Just up the road, we found the main reason we came to Sudbury. We've heard that CHNO (550) and CHYC (900) are due to switch to FM eventually, and we wanted to see their diplexed AM site, which we did. It's six tall towers and a seventh that's probably just a defunct STL tower, with a big white building in front that may once have been CHNO's studios. The faded "C H N O" letters can still be seen atop the front windows, anyway.

Two more sites finished the night: the TVOntario-CHCH relay site, shared by Laurentian University's CKLU (96.7, where a DJ was complaining about how hot the studio was!), and a distant view of the ski-resort site of the CBC's CBON (98.1) and CBCS (99.9) and Global's CFGS (Channel 11). After that, it was on to dinner (at Don Cherry's Restaurant) and a quick check of AM DX before bedtime.

Now we know where all those Canadian AMs aim their signals! Stations like CKGL (570 Kitchener) and CHIN (1540 Toronto) blast in, as do some stateside surprises, like WRMR (850 Cleveland) and WFUN (970 Ashtabula). Not many surprises on the X-band, though -- and certainly no locals.

Tomorrow we backtrack to North Bay to check out the radio scene there, and then head west again across Manitoulin Island to catch the ferry to the Bruce Peninsula and our destination of Owen Sound. We'll check in again from there Wednesday night...see you then!

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