Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Some long highway drives are legendary for their sheer monotony – ever take I-70 across the vast expanse of Kansas, or I-10 across a thousand miles of Texas? North of the border, one of the longest drives in the East has its own special brand of boring: Highway 401 from Windsor, Ontario to the Quebec line is 828 kilometers of, honestly, just not very much to look at, albeit interrupted partway through by the choking traffic of Toronto.
Over the course of 2016, three separate trips took your editor on pretty much every kilometer of the 401, including our August drive from Detroit back home to Rochester the long way around, as you’ll see in this week’s installment.
Leaving London at dusk on an August Tuesday, we put some pavement behind us with an evening drive just past London, Ontario, two hours or so east of Detroit.
The next morning, we backtracked a bit to visit the AMs of London for the first time since 1999, a visit motivated in no small part by the knowledge that one of these three sites was about to disappear.
CKSL (1410) was part of the Bell Media family in its final years, kept barely alive with an all-comedy format as “Funny 1410” – but on August 14, Bell pulled the plug on the station, saying its five-tower array was in need of repairs that weren’t worth making. When we drove by just a few days later, the towers were still in place off Scotland Drive, a few miles south of the 401. (And you can see them in Tower Site Calendar 2017, too!)
Just east of CKSL, competitor CFPL (980) survives and thrives with its own four-tower array at Scotland Drive and Wellington Road South; to the east, the London AM dial is completed by Bell talker CJBK (1290) and its seven towers. (If you dig back far enough in London AM history, you’ll see that CKSL started out on 1290, moved to 1410 and opened the way for CJBK to hit the airwaves in the early 1960s.)
Our destination later this August afternoon is a familiar one: for the last few summers, we’ve spent an afternoon in Belleville, Ontario, two hours east of Toronto, visiting with CJBQ (800) afternoon madman Freddy Vette to take part in his oldies show.
We’ve shown you Quinte Broadcasting’s lovely harborside studios here before (check out our Site of the Week installment from 2015), but they went through a big renovation since our last time here – and so here they are in their new form.
Gone are the old blinds in the windows and the Ward-Beck consoles in their 1980s furniture, replaced with sleek new furniture and even sleeker new Wheatstone consoles.
Where Freddy used to spin the oldies in the big CJBQ corner studio, the walls are now painted purple and the room is now home to “Mix 97” CIGL (97.1). There’s still a news/talk booth next to that studio, also with new furniture – and what had been the Mix 97 studio next to that is now CJBQ’s studio home, where our US radio crew packs in for an afternoon of fun with Freddy. Just down the hall, red is the dominant colo(u)r at the renovated “Rock 107” CJTN (107.1) studio.
And after a fun afternoon with Freddy, we have another hour or so up the 401 past Kingston to the Thousand Islands Bridge for the long drive back home…
Thanks to Quinte Broadcasting for the tour!
We still have the 2019 Tower Site Calendar in stock — but we barely have 10 left.
This is the last printing for the year, so if you haven’t ordered yours yet, don’t wait. Order it now.
We still have eight copies of The Radio Historian’s 2019 Calendar available, which are now 20% off.
Check them both out in our store!
And don’t miss a big batch of Ontario IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Up and down the Delmarva Peninsula, August 2016