The Big Trip 2001

In the summer of 1998, Archives co-founder Scott Fybush and I went on a week-long trip through eastern Canada, making stops in northern Maine (which might as well be in Canada), all three major cities in New Brunswick, all one major city in Prince Edward Island, Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa. The excuse for this trip had been a family reunion for my mother's family in Fort Kent, Maine, which I didn't even attend. Little did we know that we were setting a precedent.

Our previous multi-day trips, some just as long, but most confined to three or four days, had mostly been organized around club conventions and three- or four-day weekends. These trips took us to places like Wilmington, Delaware (for an NRC convention in 1997), and Bangor, Maine (just to see what was there). After Scott moved back to his home town, Rochester, New York, there was an opportunity for short trips to places like Albany, Buffalo, and Toronto, but given the expense and effort involved, it made sense to put a bit more planning into our travels and take a bit more time at it.

I started to do some tower travel of my own, particularly in 2000 when I visited the great Central Valley of California, on a particularly round-about journey from San Francisco airport to Monterey for a conference. (Scott still hasn't seen Modesto or Fresno.) I had not yet hit upon the idea of putting trip photos on the Web site, although I was doing photos of local Boston stations. I had bought one of the earliest consumer mini-DV camcorders, however, and was shooting video of many of these sites. (Of course, now I just have to wonder, “What was I thinking?”, but back then it wasn't so clear.) On his travels, Scott was still shooting film (and would continue to do so until 2004, when he finally broke down and bought a Nikon D70).

In 2001, Scott was invited to a family wedding in Omaha, Nebraska, scheduled for the weekend of June 30th and July 1st. This seemed to both of us like an ideal opportunity to see a good chunk of the country that neither of us had spent much time in, and make our first (and in a few cases last) visits to many important stations around the U.S. Mrs. Fybush, having had enough of being ignored in the back seat of the car on our previous trips, would fly, but Scott and I would drive some six thousand miles to see what we could reasonably accomplish in Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Chicago, Dubuque, the Quad Cities, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Yankton, Omaha, Topeka, Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis, Evansville, Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati. Not having any family connections to the wedding party, I left Scott in Omaha for my own adventure back up in South Dakota, where I stopped in Pierre and Rapid City before heading back down through central Nebraska.

In preparation for the trip, I purchased a refurbished Sony digital camera from the Sony outlet store in Wrentham. When it was focused and composed properly, the Sony took decent photos for its day, but it had one major flaw: there was no optical viewfinder. This made it extremely difficult to compose photos out-of-doors, particularly during the sort of clear, sunny days the Great Plains are known for during the summer. Many photos that might otherwise have been interesting turned out, on later inspection, to be out-of-focus and often poorly exposed. A further complication was the cost of memory. It's hard to remember, at this remove, that a 128-Mbyte Sony Memory Stick cost more in 2001 than a 2-Gbyte Compact Flash drive does today—by quite a bit. Add to that my general unfamiliarity with the camera and with digital-camera shooting style, and the result is a surprisingly small number of presentable photos for a sixteen-day road trip. (If I had it to do all over again, I would probably have ended up with ten times as many photos to start with, and perhaps two or three times as many left after editing.)

In 2001, we called this “The Big Trip”—no other qualification necessary. But it would come to be a prototype for future spring and summer road trips we would undertake (although most of them would be rather shorter), including a March, 2002, trip to the mid-South (Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Huntsville); a March, 2003, trip to see more of the South (the Research Triangle, the Piedmont Triad, Charlotte, Columbia, Greenville-Spartanburg, Asheville, and Roanoke); an August, 2005, trip to the upper midwest (Minneapolis, Duluth, International Falls, Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee, the Fox River Valley, Green Bay, Wausau, and La Crosse); a September, 2006, trip to the Pacific Northwest organized around the 2006 IRCA convention in Seaside, Oregon (Olympia, Eugene, Portland, Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Spokane, Yakima, Everett, Seattle); and most recently as of this writing, an August-September, 2007, trip to the inland northwest including the conventions of all four major radio clubs (IRCA and Decalcomania in Salt Lake City, NRC and WTFDA in Boise).

As time permits, I will be going through these old photos and extracting those that are both identifiable and presentable, as a historical record. Stations here will generally be identified by their identities at the time the photos were taken, which in many cases will have changed in the succeeding half-dozen years.

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