Photos and text by SCOTT FYBUSH
This week's Tower Site installment is a sort of a mixed bag, dipping in and out of several markets along I-94 in eastern Michigan as we zipped back and forth along the highway several times during August 2010.
As the pictures above might indicate, the weather that August weekend was pretty iffy, alternating between heavy rain and hot sun, and when we pulled into Jackson, Michigan, 80 miles west of Detroit, it was closer to "heavy rain."
Jackson has three AM stations, and we found two of them. WKHM (970) dates back to 1951, and its four-tower array is easy to find but hard to photograph, tucked away in the woods south of town off South Jackson Road, in a pretty area full of small lakes. The transmitter site is also home to the "Jackson Radio Works" studios - not just news-talk WKHM(AM) but also ESPN Radio affiliate WIBM (1450 Jackson) and top-40 "K-105.3" WKHM-FM (105.3 Brooklyn).
WIBM is one of Michigan's oldest stations, dating way back to 1924, and its current tower site east of Jackson on Dettman Road is easy to find, just off US 127.
What's more elusive is the third AM in town: the licensed site of WJKN (1510), a mile or so east of WKHM, turned out to be a housing development, and it wasn't until afterward that we figured out the religious station was operating under special temporary authority from a longwire antenna near Jackson Community College nearby. (Remember we showed you the now-defunct WOLY 1500 Battle Creek in our last installment? Its continued existence was impeding WJKN's current owner, Spring Arbor University, from shuffling its signals to boost WJKN's power.)
Moving east from Jackson, the next radio town of any consequence is Ann Arbor, and it's been a very long time since we've tramped around its towers. On this trip, it was no different: instead of radio, we spent our time at the big art fair that takes over the downtown streets, and so the only radio we saw was the rooftop site of WQKL (107.1), the quirky AAA station that's such a nice fit for this funky college town. (We'll get back sometime soon, we promise...)
And that brings us to another market that's gotten short shrift here on Tower Site of the Week.
We spent quite a bit of time in Detroit in the 1990s, before we were quite so obsessive about getting good pictures and taking studio and transmitter tours, and the Motor City is very much on the list for an extensive return visit one of these days.
Our August 2010 stop in Detroit had a different purpose, though: we were in town to see some baseball at Comerica Park, our first time at a Tigers game since a Tigers-Red Sox outing back in 1999, the final season at the old Tiger Stadium.
A rainout meant it took us two tries to get to the game this time out, but when it finally worked out, we had a very pleasant Sunday afternoon up in the upper deck. From up there, you can see more than just a ballgame: there's also a very nice view of the downtown Detroit skyline, including the Cadillac Tower skyscraper that's home to Clear Channel's WMXD (92.3) and WDTW-FM (106.7).
Other downtown Detroit FMs include public radio WDET-FM (101.9), whose tower is clearly visible just a few blocks north of the parking lot near the stadium where we stash the NERW-mobile. If memory serves, WDET was also a rooftop FM for quite a while before building this 566-foot self-supporter in 1997.
There's one more Detroit signal we see on the way out of town: WDTW (1310 Dearborn) is the old "Keener 13" WKNR from days gone by, and its six-tower array is a landmark on the south side of I-94 west of Detroit, not far from an even more prominent landmark, the giant Goodrich tire that also sits alongside the highway.
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Next week: TBA