There’s not much to say about this week’s actual audio updates – a few catch-up IDs from the small markets of Tri-Cities WA and Pendleton OR, captured en route to Boise via our featured market of the week, the new Toppy addition of La Grande OR, a very small place indeed. (Apologies for the poor quality of some of the La Grande IDs; our stop there was a brief one, with several hours of driving ahead on the way to Boise, and we hadn’t properly prepared for the unusual nature of the signals in the market, which has a big mountain range in the middle separating the La Grande half from the Baker City half.)
But without much to say about this week’s IDs, I thought I’d answer a question that pops up occasionally in e-mail: “How do you pull off those Big Trips of yours?”
So over the next few weeks, as IDs from Boise play softly in the background, I’ll offer a brief primer on how our little bunch does it. (Perhaps Garrett or Blaine can chime in with some details if I slip!)
The first step, of course, is choosing a destination. In the case of Big Trip 2007, that was easy: there were two radio club conventions a week apart in Salt Lake City and Boise, and a big chunk of America in between that we’d never seen, so the trip almost dictated itself. In previous years, destinations have been dictated by other radio conventions (Seaside, Oregon, in 2006), family events (the original Big Trip through the midwest in 2001) or even the chance to see a traveling buddy complete his visits to every county in America (International Falls, Minnesota, in 2005). In general, though, we look for areas we haven’t visited much before, with consideration given to weather (Florida in August? No thanks!) and the availability of station tours. Free lodging is nice, too; in this case, we had one night with friends of Garrett’s in Boise, and it’s always nice to get out of hotels after a week on the road.
Once we have a destination – and that’s usually determined as early as nine months before the trip – the next step is a round-robin of e-mails among the usual Big Trip participants, as we discuss which cities to include. In previous Big Trips, we’ve learned that it’s usually a very bad idea to drive more than 5 or 6 hours in a day, especially if we’re trying to do radio visits in the same day. (This is more of a concern in the widely-spaced West than in the East or Midwest!) We’ve also learned that in larger markets, we need to allow several days in town if we hope to visit multiple stations and properly document the whole market. It took the better part of three days to see everything we saw in Boise, for instance; Salt Lake took four, and we still didn’t see quite everything. And since we’re not in our twenties anymore (not even Blaine), we’ve learned to pace ourselves – it’s nice to stick a day in the schedule without much to see, just to relax and regroup.
Then there’s the Aircheck Factor: I like to tape TV newscasts, and prefer to get them on weekday evenings; I also like to roll weekday morning drive in each market I visit. So in the case of Big Trip 2007, for instance, circumstances dictated that we had to get to Boise by Thursday night so I could do Friday morning radio and Friday night TV news. (This sometimes creates longer drives than we’d prefer; in this case, we pushed all the way from Lewiston to Boise in one very long day, rather than spending a night in La Grande or Baker City, as we might otherwise have done.)
After a few weeks of back-and-forth by e-mail, as proposed schedules morph from Plan A to Plan K to Plan BB to Plan DDD, we usually end up eliminating at least one market that would be neat to visit but just too far to travel (Billings, Montana, in the case of Big Trip 2007), and we end up with a pretty good idea of where we’ll be each day, how much driving is involved, and how many hotel nights.
When we continue next week, we’ll explore the issues of mapping, hotel choice and aircheck planning…and in the meantime, go check out those Pendleton and La Grande stations on Tower Site of the Week, too!