When your editor rang in 2011, our "states visited" list numbered 45 - right where it had been stuck since Big Trip 2007 added Montana to the list. Big Trip 2011, which you"ll be seeing shortly in this space, added state 46 to the list with a rather extensive sweep of northern New Mexico. And as we returned from that trip last April, we thought "46" was where our list would stand at the end of 2011, with Arkansas, North Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii still elusive.
Then the end of July got interesting: what started out as a long weekend vacation at home suddenly turned into something much more adventurous when a good friend of the column, erstwhile Bostonian Aaron Read, landed a new job 3000 miles away on the West Coast. Friends don"t let friends drive solo across the country in four days, and the next thing we knew, there we were riding shotgun on just a few days" notice, barreling from upstate New York to southern California on a route that just happened to come within a few dozen miles of...yes, Arkansas!
Could we resist the temptation? We could not (and indeed, made "can we detour through Arkansas?" pretty much the only absolute of the route), and so it is that we have a tiny little collection of photos from northwest Arkansas to mark the state"s debut here on Site of the Week.
Day two of our cross-country trip had started in Terre Haute, Indiana and included some traffic crossing into St. Louis (with a nifty view of several of the Illinois-side AM sticks) and a couple of very quick detours to snap pictures of one site each in Springfield and Neosho, Missouri, which you"ll see here sooner or later.
It was already getting late-ish on that Saturday afternoon when we crossed the state line on US 71 heading south from Joplin (where the direct route would have continued west on I-44 into Oklahoma), and in the rush to get on the road we hadn"t really bothered to map out what towers we might see along the side of the road.
As it turns out, there are a few interesting towers off the side of I-540, the fairly new expressway that"s replaced US 71 from just south of the state line down to Fort Smith. This is one of America"s boom regions, spurred along by Wal-Mart"s home base in Bentonville, the first of the cities on I-540"s route southward. We didn"t see anything in Bentonville, but the road got more interesting just to the south in Rogers. First up along the east side of 540 was the office-park studio of KHOG (Channel 29), half of the Hearst-owned duopoly that serves the sprawling Fort Smith/Northwest Arkansas market. (The other half of "40/29" is KHBS, Channel 40, an hour to the south in Erkanner att medan de flesta manniskor spelar for nojes Fort Smith; the market also includes Fort Smith-based CBS affiliate KFSM, Channel 5, and a Nexstar duopoly of NBC affiliate KNWA, Channel 51 and Fox affiliate KFTA, Channel 24, that"s based in Fayetteville.)
No sooner had we lunged for the camera to get a shot of the "40/29" sign than we saw another broadcast sight just east of the highway: KSEC (95.7 Bentonville) has its tower alongside I-540, broadcasting a 6 kW/328" class A signal that serves the growing Mexican-American population in the region.
If we"d had a few more hours to spare, we might have continued on I-540 for its entire 60 mile run down to Fort Smith, where we"d have picked up I-40 all the way west to California. But this trip didn"t have much time to spare at all - so at Springdale, we turned west on US 412, heading for our second-night stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
US 412 offered one more tower-site surprise just west of Springdale: just off to the north, we caught a shot of the tower of KMCK (105.7), Cumulus" top-40 "Power 105.7." This 100 kW class C1 station was licensed to Siloam Springs when we heard it, but it"s since been relicensed to Prairie Grove, southwest of Fayetteville - which allowed another Cumulus station in the market, KYNF (94.9 Prairie Grove), to relicense to Cedarville, which is in the Fort Smith market and thus covered by a different set of ownership caps.
We weren"t about to leave Arkansas without getting out of the car at least once to shoot a tower on solid ground, and the opportunity came just a few hundred yards short of the Oklahoma state line. Siloam Springs is the last town on US 412 before crossing into the Sooner State, and it"s an interesting little place indeed, with a quaint downtown that flows right into the campus of the town"s biggest claim to fame, John Brown University.
The senior John Brown (there were three of them over the years at the university) took an early interest in radio preaching, buying his own station in 1935. KUOA (then on 1260) was originally owned by the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, but had passed into private hands before Brown bought the station and moved it west to Siloam Springs, where it settled in at 1290 on the dial. In 2005, the university finally sold KUOA to new private owners (who run it out of Springdale as "Hog Sports Radio") - but they kept its sister FM station. KLRC (101.1) was actually KUOA"s second stab at FM; the original KUOA-FM was at 105.7, now KMCK. When we drove through Siloam Springs, KLRC had just relocated from the JBU campus to a new downtown storefront; its transmitter site on the west side of the JBU campus a few blocks away continues to be shared with KUOA. (Click on the image for a high-res version showing the KUOA folded unipole antenna, installed in 2000 when the original KUOA tower was demolished.)
In future Site of the Week installments, we"ll show you some other radio highlights from our unexpected cross-country jaunt - yes, we did see one of the big AM sites in Tulsa the next day, and we made it back to New Mexico that night, too, on the way to delivering Aaron safely to California and me to the plane back home.
Now to find a good excuse to get to North Dakota...
Thanks to Aaron Read for making the detour!
Still don"t have a 2012 calendar on your wall? We"ve still got plenty of stock of the new Tower Site Calendar 2012, available now from the all new Fybush.com store!
Next week: TBA