Random tidbits, thoughts, ideas, reviews, etc.Aaron Goes Yakkity Yak
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Am I a Victim of Widespread Low-Value Telecommunications Fraud? ("Cramming")
Monday, 11 April 2005 11:52 AM MDT
Below is a letter I'm about to send out about attempted criminal fraud appearing on my most recent Qwest local telephone bill. Let me quickly disclaim that I am not accusing Qwest, nor am I accusing OAN Services, Inc. of fraud. But someone has used one or both of these services to put a fraudulent charge on my telephone bill. I don't know how much responsibility either organization bears. If this is a widespread problem that many people have experienced, and people have reported these problems to Qwest and/or to OAN, and the organizations took no action to curb such fraud in the future, then I personally believe that they bear some responsibility.
11 April 2005
The following is a story of attempted criminal fraud to collect money for services that were not provided. It involves Qwest, myself (Aaron Gifford), and some unknown third party (unknown to me, but known to Qwest who has a contractual relationship). Please read the story below. At the bottom of the story, I'll say more about how widespread this sort of fraudulent activity is in the telephone industry. Apparently many people have been burned. Fortunately I'm not one of them. I hope that you can help take action to prevent further such fraud, help alert customers of telephone companies, and to help all parties involved take appropriate action and responsibility to stop this.
Here's where my story begins:
On Monday, April 11, 2005, while looking at my Qwest bill for local telephone service, I noticed that the total due was a bit higher than usual. Looking more closely at the bill, I discovered a charge of $6.44 on my Qwest Account Summary section of my bill with the words �OAN Services, Inc� next to the charge. It told me to look on page 4.
Page 4 of my Qwest bill had a large �OAN� logo on the upper-left corner, and indicated that a 6-minute collect call took place on Wednesday, March 2, 2005 at 11:05 AM from a phone number I've never seen before Ward, Colorado (303-459-9609) to my home phone number. I have never accepted any collect calls at any time this year, and no such collect call occurred on March 2. This is an obvious act of fraud by someone. (If Qwest bothered, they could check the logs from their telephone switch that serves my phone line and discover that no such call took place.)
On the OAN page 4 of Qwest's bill, above the charge, a statement appears, "The following transaction is billed on behalf of: NATIONWIDE CONNECTIONS, INC" Two different web sites and 800 phone numbers appear on this page. They are 800-947-5084, www.billview.com/oan, 800-944-9646, and www.oanweb.com.
I have had zero dealings with any of the parties mentioned on page 4 of my Qwest bill. I have no relationship with OAN, OAN Services, Inc, NATIONWIDE CONNETIONS, INC, nor with the web sites or 800 numbers mentioned there. I have neither explicitly nor implicitly authorized any of these parties (or party as the case may be) to provide any product, service, or ANYTHING to me, nor are any parties (or party) authorized to bill me for anything.
On page 4, a line appears saying "Total OAN Services, Inc. Long Distance" and shows that for 6 minutes, the amount of $6.25 is charged. A 3% federal excise tax adds $0.19 to this, for a total fraudulent charge of $6.44.
At the bottom of page 4 a most paradoxical pair of statements appear as something of a disclaimer from Qwest. The first says, "This portion of your bill is provided as a service to OAN Services, Inc." That's understandable. I'm aware that Qwest has contractual business relationships with third-party organizations and provides to them billing services. Long distance operators usually bill this way. This statement is totally true.
The next one, however, is blatently false. It says (right below the first), "There is no connection between Qwest and OAN Services, Inc." Excuse me! So is Qwest claiming that there is NOT a billing service contract between these parties? The phrase "no connection" implies ZERO connection, no contractual relationship, no services provided one organization to another, etc. The entirety of page 4 is obvious tangible evidence that Qwest DOES have a connection to the party or parties billing for services ON Qwest's bill.
Since I do not have and have not had any relationship with whoever is charging the $6.44 (total), but I do have an existing customer-provider relationship with Qwest (they provide me local telephone service for which I have promptly and regularly paid them for since the early 1990s).
This morning (Mon, 11 April 2005) at approximately 9:47 AM MDT (Utah time), I called the Qwest customer service number and navigated the automated menu structure to the appropriate place, then waited on hold for a human customer service representative.
A woman's voice finally answered the call, a polite representative named Kelly. I quickly explained that I was reporting fraudulent charges in the amount of $6.44 and that I was simultaneously disputing charges in the same amount. She looked up my bill, then explained that the $6.44 charges were from a third party that Qwest provided billing service for.
I explained that I have zero relationship with this third party, but Qwest does have a relationship in providing the billing service. Kelly said something much the same as the statement at the bottom of page 4 of the Qwest bill, that Qwest has no connection. I refused to let such an untrue statement stand.
Kelly as an individual was probably not aware before my call that this statement was blatantly false. I explained that Qwest DOES have a connection, a billing services contract in place. I should have added that in order for the third-party billing to actually work, money has to also change hands between Qwest and any third-parties.
Kelly suggested that I call this third party and dispute the charges with them.
Would an ordinary person who got a bill in the mail from a company they had never heard from before for a service they knew with 100% surety was NOT provided, that such charges were fraudulent—would this ordinary person even BOTHER contacting that company? Perhaps some would, but many would just tear up the bill and drop it in the trash.
Why bother trying to contact an unknown company about fraudulent charges? For all the person knows, the company is nothing but a sham conducting large-scale fraud against many people.
I explained to Kelly that since I have no relationship with this other party (or parties), and since Qwest does, Qwest is responsible to take action.
In the end, Kelly agreed to remove $6.44 in charges from my bill. She did warn that the OAN party may attempt to re-bill in the future.
As I was frustrated, I rather intensely told her that the charges had better not EVER reappear on my Qwest bill, and that if I had to spend my valuable time again in the future dealing with these same charges, I would send Qwest a bill for my time billed at $100/hour (the amount I charge for computer consulting work I do) billed in 15-minute increments, and that Qwest NOT taking action to assure that these charges did not reappear would be implicit agreement to pay my bill.
My thanks go out to Qwest customer service representative Kelly, for her patiently and calmly listening to me, a frustrated Qwest customer, and for removing the charges from my bill. I hope this is now over.
Here's the REMAINING PROBLEM. This is fraud. Someone is making money by scatter-shot billing many telephone users for small amounts like this. Many users will just pay it and move on. Many busy folks worry that they don't have the time to spend handling this, that it's easier to just pay.
I did a quick Google web search for the phrase "OAN Services" and "fraud". Wow! A TON of web sites come back, some going back to 2001, reporting fraudulent charges from these folks. There are stories from Verizon customers, from Qwest customers, and other telephone company customers of fraudulent charges for collect calls, for supposed e-mail services, and probably other alleged services. Many of these customers have called Qwest and reported this. Several also mention that when they asked the Qwest representatives if anyone else had reported fraud with OAN, the Qwest representative mentioned that no one else had reported fraud.
(Sounds like there's a record-keeping and communications break-down at Qwest's customer service department. I would think that Qwest would want to keep track of fraud rates among third-parties that use Qwest for billing so Qwest could avoid becoming culpable, legally, for aiding and abetting such fraud, and to protect their own good customers from fraud.)
I know NOTHING of these OAN or OAN related organizations except that there is a fraudulent charge from them on my Qwest bill, and that many other people nationwide have also experienced fraudulent charges from them. Perhaps OAN is a legitimate organization that provides billing services to yet other parties, and perhaps OAN would reverse the fraudulent charges on my own bill if I contacted them directly.
BUT IT DOES NOT MATTER! Here's why. If there is such a big fraud problem (the individual anecdotes found with a quick web search provide ample evidence that this is a widespread and ongoing problem), and it has NOT STOPPED, then in my personal opinion, these OAN (or whoever) people AND QWEST TOO are INVOLVED and BEAR SOME RESPONSIBILITY!
Please, whoever reads this, take some time to help stamp out criminal fraud, to help warn other telecommunications customers about such fraud, and/or to legislate or make regulatory rules that REQUIRE companies like Qwest who allow third party billing to TRACK fraud rates and to TAKE ACTION on behalf of their own customers who report such fraud to them so that the customer (who often has NO relationship with the third party billing organization and who is not at fault) can be protected.
St. George, Utah
P.S. It is my intent to report this issue to the Federal Trade Commission, to the Utah State Public Services Commission, to local Utah news organizations (KUTV's "Get Gephardt", I'm sending you a copy), as well as to Qwest.
P.P.S. Here's one web site in particular with individual anecdotal reports of this same sort of fraud. It would be difficult to track back each such victim (or almost-victim) one-by-one to collect evidence, but I suppose it could be done. It is very unlikely that the reports of attempted fraud are of themselves fraudulent, as there is no motive, no incentive for such behavior. Here's the web address:
P.P.P.S. Here are the various organization names for or related to OAN that I've discovered. I've also included miscellaneous additional research material I've acquired trying to learn more about OAN.
1) NATIONWIDE CONNECTIONS, INC
(Mentioned on page 4 of my Qwest bill below the statement "The following transaction is billed on behalf of:")
2) OAN Services, Inc.
(Mentioned several places on page 4 of my Qwest bill)
3) Express Corporation (owner of the OANWEB.COM domain)
The WHOIS for the domain shows a mailing address for Express Corporation:
Express CorporationIf you visit this web site (mentioned in prominent bold lettering on page 4 of my Qwest bill), you will see a generic web portal, not any sort of web site relevant to billing, rates, or questions regarding collect telephone calls. This, and the fact that the domain is owned by an organization in the Dominican Republic (a non-US web site handling collect calls between Colorado and Utah?) is a big red flag warning of potential for fraud, in my opinion. It could also be laziness on the former owner of OANWEB.COM, forgetting to renew domain registration (and someone else comes along later and takes the domain), but if this is the case, it still leaves OAN wide-open to future fraud if they don't take care of this by telling Qwest to remove and update the domain for future billing.
P.O. Box 2331
4) Billing Concepts, Inc. (owner of the BILLVIEW.COM domain)
The WHOIS for the domain shows the following information:
Billing Concepts, Inc.5)The 800 number, 800-944-9646 is sometimes mentioned as being affiliated with a company called ACI or ACI Billing Services. One web site mentions that ACI acquired OAM
Hostmaster Concepts, Inc.
7411 John Smith Dr #200
San Antonio, TX 78229
6)A trademark search at the US Patent and Trademark Office web site (www.uspto.gov) reveals the following trademark registration:
Word Mark OAN Goods and Services IC 035. US 100 101 102. G & S: DATA PROCESSING SERVICES IN THE FIELDS OF BILLING and COLLECTIONS FOR TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANIES. FIRST USE: 19990301. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19990301The logo doesn't quite match the logo on page 4 of my bill. However, a DEAD trademark originally filed for in 1992 DOES match the logo. The DEAD/cancelled trademark was last held/owned by the same NTELECOM HOLDINGS, INC. (last listed owner)
Mark Drawing Code (3) DESIGN PLUS WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS
Design Search Code 261701 261705 261706 261725 270301
Serial Number 75687708
Filing Date April 19, 1999
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition February 1, 2000
Registration Number 2345245
Registration Date April 25, 2000
Owner (REGISTRANT) nTELECOM HOLDINGS, INC. CORPORATION DELAWARE 9255 CORBIN AVENUE NORTHRIDGE CALIFORNIA 91324
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Prior Registrations 1567461;1568724;1702055
Description of Mark The drawing is lined for the colors blue and green.
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE
ADDITIONAL MISC. RESEARCH:
The Telemarketing Call Center NEWS web site at http://www.tmcnet.com/ccs/1097/ccnews.htm (dated October 1997) mentions that "nTeleCom Holdings, Inc. has announced the purchase of OAN Services, Inc. from EDS in a move intended to sharpen its focus on the communications industry."
The Phone Plus Magazine web site at http://www.phoneplusmag.com/articles/1c1feat2.html dated December 2001 mentions that OAN Services, Inc. was (maybe still is) a local exchange carrier billing clearinghouse provider, and that they apparently declared bankruptcy on or before 2001, then were purchased (probably in 2001) by Avery Communications (is this "ACI" I've heard mentioned before? Probably.) for $10.4 million, purchasing OAN's assets and contracts. The article mentions that the sale of assets was approved by the court.
It looks like Avery Communications has a "record" so-to-speak; at least they've had past issues according to the FTC's web site (see http://www.ftc.gov/os/1999/10/ and scroll down to the October 6, 1999 section). I don't know if Avery is currently involved in OAN or not, nor do I know if OAN is the source of the fraud, or like Qwest, just passing the charges on through. (Personally, I believe both Qwest and any other such "pass-through" providers should be responsible to take action when fraud is reported, and if they take no action, should be held culpable.)
According to CIS World (see http://www.cisworld.com/profiles/acibilling.htm for the info.), ACI Billing Services, a division of Avery Communications, Inc. purchased OAN Services. According to ACI Billing's web site (see http://www.acibilling.com/contact.html in particular), ACI Billing Services' contact address is:
ACI Billing Services, Inc.Does this look familiar? It does to me. That's the SAME address as the aforementioned BILLVIEW.COM domain owner, minus the suite number (Billing Concents, Inc. and/or Hosting Concepts, Inc.). This provides a CURRENT (i.e. 2005) connection in my mind between ACI and OAN.
7411 John Smith Drive
San Antonio, TX 78229
In further evidence of a current connection is ACI Billing's web page at http://www.acibilling.com/phonebill.html which shows the SAME telephone number listed immediately below "Nationwide Connections, Inc." and immediately above "WWW.OANWEB.COM" on page 4 of my Qwest bill.
UPDATE (Monday, 9 May 2005): I got my Qwest telephone bill this week. When I spoke with Qwest on the telephone about this charge, they told me it would be removed. Yet there it remains, showing as an unpaid portion of my bill. Fortunately for Qwest, they did not charge me any interest or any late fees because I did not pay the disputed fraudulent amount. I will give Qwest one more billing cycle to get this fixed before I bug them again, since I do remember the Qwest person saying that chargebacks sometimes take two billing cycles to complete (though why it takes so long is beyond me in this day and age of instant computerized billing systems, such things should be instant).
UPDATE (Tuesday, 12 July 2005): The fraudulent charge of $6.44 has been showing up on each and every subsequent bill since April. Since Qwest wasn't trying to charge late fees or interest, I figured I would just wait for the slow wheels of Qwest's bureaucracy to finally take care of it. Today I got around to calling Qwest's customer service again, navigating the awful automated front-end they've got that kept saying, "I'm sorry, I don't understand..." to every response I spoke. When I finally got an intelligent human (Todd, Qwest Customer Service ID #2111), he listened to my hyper-speedy summation of what it was about, then he said he would take care of it immediately, while I waited on the telephone. Good job, Todd! He then told me that the manual reversal of the $6.44 charge had been entered into the system and that it would take 2 days to a week for the computer to process the reversal. On my next bill, I should expect to see the $6.44 unpaid balance and a $6.44 credit (the reversal). Perfect! It's what Kelly should have done when I called back in April.
(At the request of my sister Janna who is visiting as I write this, I must mention that all the while I was speaking with Todd and subsequently since then, she's been humming and singing, and just barely was clapping her feet together.)
On 13 Feb. 2006 Vladimir wrote:
What an exelent reserch about OAN. I have the same problem. I am a Qwest castomer. Looks like they "Qwest" alredy know what it is all about, in my case they t0ld me that they will remove charges emidiatly. Thank You for your help.On 23 Feb. 2006, Dave M. wrote:
Aaron,On 30 Apr. 2007, Stephanie wrote:
Nice job on OAN phone scam. Will use the info in my lawsuit against SBC.
April 30, 2007: Looks like some time has past since you posted the problems you were having. We have just experienced our 2nd bill added to our legit phone bill from OAN. Charge of $8.43 total. Customer service stated that our first call was not 'taken care of' and that she would 'cancel' and refund charges for both months. I stated it was hard to 'cancel' something that we didn`t order! Listed was wrong name and address with our phone number! Thanks for your info!On 18 Jan. 2008, Carrie P. wrote:
I have 2 charges on my phone bill from OAN SERVICES, INC both at 12:00 AM. One is for 15.74 and the other is for 14.95 coming to a total of 30.69. I have never called these people or even know who they are. I will be calling my phone company Monday to dispute these charges. Thanks to the information you wrote, I know these are fraudulant charges.On 20 Jan. 2008, Robert A. G. wrote:
I was most interested to read your comments on OAN Services and just wanted to let you know that their nefarious practices are still continuing. I received my Verizon 'phone bill on 1/18/08 which includes an item "Total for OAN Services Inc $7.75" for Directory Assistance (Number 101 515-8000) and a USF Carrier Administrative Fee of $1.65. Neither the 'phone number nor the call make any sense to me. Following your example I have sent a strongly worded e-mail to Verizon and am awaiting a reply.On 20 Feb. 2008, William N. wrote:
Robert A. G.
[Editor's note: Message signature was edited to remove the user's full name.]
I am a victim of OAM Services. I have been getting a charge on my AT&T phone bill for odyseestreamingradio. At first I thought it was part of my internet sevice, 14.95 month bit it was not. I called their toll free number and cancelled it. They told me I would get a refund, but they did not offer the previous months. I did not join this. They say I did, but yahoo music is free to me unless I subscribe to download. So I asked myself if I would join another, and I answered no. I searched my computer and found no file on them.
If I can help in any other way let me know.
PS I filed an online complaint about oan sevices,and reported it to AT&T.
[Editor's note: This message had minor editing of punctuation and capitalization to improve ease of readability. No content was changed.]
UPDATE 28 MAY 2008:
There's a fun article at arstechnica.com about this very same practice of "cramming" as the author calls it.
The article's author, however, falls hook, line, and sinker for the telephone company's excuse, however:
When I called AT&T, the customer service rep sympathized but could do nothing. The charges had not come from AT&T, I was told, and the company simply had no involvement with them.Don't buy that!
Your telephone bill is direct physical (or electronic if you opt for paperless) evidence that the telephone company has obvious involvement with the third parties in that they are offering billing and collection services to the third parties. The phone company is going to pass on any monies collected to those parties.
If the phone company has no relationship, how did the third party manage to magically make the billing item appear on your phone bill? And where will any money paid go? To the third party, of course. The one the phone company claimed they had no involvement with. How is that possible? (Hint for the mentally slow: It's impossible.)
If you, on the other hand, did absolutely nothing to authorize the charges (and did not authorize anyone else to sign up for any services or purchase products) and have had no contact with these "crammers", then you are the only one with no relationship or involvement. The phone company has a direct (or possibly slightly indirect via one or more billing aggregators) relationship however.
When a phone company person tells you that they can do nothing, DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THAT! Of course the CAN do something! Because the PHONE company is the organization directly attempting to charge you! Not the billing aggregators or third party "crammers".
You can dispute those charges on your phone bill and REFUSE to be forced by the phone company to ever contact or attempt to contact the third parties as you DO NOT HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM but the TELEPHONE COMPANY DOES HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM as DIRECTLY EVIDENCED by your PHONE BILL!
Okay, forgive me for yelling (virtually). But it's a point you should make clearly and emphatically to anyone at the phone company.
Additionally, make it clear to them that any attempt to add late fees, discontinue your telephone service, or adversely affect your credit rating because of your refusal to pay the phone company the "crammed" unauthorized charges is unacceptable.
This is what I did way back when OAN Services "crammed" my phone bill, and Qwest capitulated and handled it. I didn't have to ever try to contact this OAN Services third party with whom I had no relationship, but with whom Qwest obviously DID have a relationship (as evidenced by Qwest delivering to me the OAN Services bill with their own bill and attempting to collect money from me for and behalf of OAN Services).
I'm not a lawyer. I don't know the legal ramifications of my above opinions. But I do know what's fair and what's right. The phone company trying to make you do all the leg work contacting third parties to "ask" them nicely to remove unauthorized (and possibly fraudulent) charges is unacceptable. YOU have a relationship as a customer with the phone company. Let them know that THEY must serve YOU or you will take your business elsewhere.
Sorry about ranting, but while I enjoyed the article at arstechnica.com, I had to point out the flaw of believing the phone company's claim that they can do nothing. I do agree with the advise of contacting the BBB and FTC. I might suggest your state's Attorney General as well. And/or any local consumer protection friendly members of the press.
(Here in Utah, Salt Lake City television station KUTV's Bill Gephardt regulary assists consumers on his "Get Gephardt" segments. He's helped consumers who have been defrauded like this. In your area, you may have similar advocates among the press.)
I Came Across an Article About My Great-Great Grandmother
Friday, 08 April 2005 7:17 PM MDT
In surfing the 'net this evening, I ran across this history article about my grandmother's grandmother (my great-great grandmother) Alice Parker Isom. Talk about a pioneer woman with tenacity in operating a store in the late 1800s, a widow at a young age, and someone whose honesty and work ethic kept her going after losing a great deal of money on a business investment that didn't pan in the early 1900s.
The article was written by W. Paul Reeve. I know Paul. While growing up, he was a neighbor of mine. The Reeve family he hails from are very good people. His mother and father are people I respect deeply. I'm always pleasantly surprised to come across Paul's historical stuff. I shouldn't be, since he is a historian, after all, and a scholarly one at that.
Another of Paul's articles at the same web site is about my grandmother Alice (granddaughter of the aforementioned Alice Parker Isom, named after her in fact), who recalled as a child some of the goings on in Southern Utah during World War I. One of Paul's cited sources is a book my grandmother wrote.
I've got a copy of her book in my posession that I started scanning and converting to electronic format. I need to finish that project, then get permission from my mother and uncle (they're the two children of Alice's who took care things when she died, and so would be the contact folks with regard to copyright on the book) to post it, or portions thereof on the 'net.
UPDATE: 13 April 2007 It looks like the web address for the article has changed from the now-incorrect URL
General Conference - Sunday Afternoon Session
Sunday, 03 April 2005 2:02 PM MDT
General Conference Notes - Sunday Morning Session
Sunday, 03 April 2005 10:03 AM MDT
The regularly broadcast program "Music and the Spoken Word" which today preceeded the Sunday morning session of General Conference was beautiful. I really think that the improvements in technology, the addition of the Orchestra at Temple Square to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the many relatively new and beautiful musical arrangements that fully utilize the talents of the organists, orchestra members, and choir members, and what seems to be more rigorous requirements of musicianship of choir members has made the quality of music better and better over the years. Beautiful music!
Now as the morning session begins, there's a gentle arrangement of "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" they're singing and it's stunning! Gorgeous! What a perfect opening to
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General Conference Notes - Saturday Afternoon Session
Saturday, 02 April 2005 2:05 PM MST
This session of conference is always one of my favorite, because the officers of the Church are sustained. I get to raise my right hand and manifest my commitment that I will sustain President Gordon B. Hinckley as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, then sustain his two counselors in the First Presidency, and then...
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General Conference Notes - Saturday Morning Session
Saturday, 02 April 2005 11:27 AM MST
Well it's time for General Conference again. I look forward to April and October General Conference with great anticipation, for they are always very spiritually fulfilling. How quickly the last six months have passed.
In October, my friend Jason and I drove to Salt Lake City on Saturday morning, listening to the morning session as we drove, where we attended the Saturday afternoon session. That was the session where Elder Dieter F. Uchdorf and Elder David A. Bednar were sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It was a special privilege to be present there and to participate as we and all the other members of the Church raised their right hands to sustain these two newly called Apostles.
We were seated in the bottom few rows of the upper balcony at the westernmost end, looking down upon the stand where the various General Authorities sit. Before the session began, we watched the two new members of the Quorum of the Twelve standing at the end of the row where the Twelve sit, the end nearest to us. It was marvelous to see the friendship and welcome extended to these two new members by the others. They came over and stood next to them, shook their hands, and even warmly hugged them. It was heartwarming.
This conference, I decided to...
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Hiking North of Washington, Utah
Saturday, 26 March 2005 6:00 PM MST
Yakkity Yak, Astounding Adventures
Another Saturday had arrived with sunny, shirt-sleeve weather, the air pleasantly cool and clear after recent stormy weather. Having had no real physical activity for two weeks, the urge to go hiking was nigh unto killing me. I made a quick call over...
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Concrete Arrows in Southwestern Utah
Friday, 11 March 2005 12:16 PM MST
Yakkity Yak, Astounding Adventures
On Concrete Arrows
Random Tidbits and Musings on the Historic Aviation Markers in Southwestern Utah
While cache hunting (or geocaching), I've come across several large concrete arrows on the ground. At first I wondered what they were for, speculating that perhaps they were aviation markers of some sort. Later, after reading other cache hunters talk about the same arrows, and after reading a historical display in the St. George Utah Municipal Airport about the old Air Mail routes circa 1930, I learned that indeed these were indeed aviation markers, relics left over from aviation history.
Apparently Western Air Express was awarded the contract for the Los Angeles to Salt Lake City "contract air mail" route, route number four, or CAM-4, and made their first flight along the 650-mile CAM-4 route in April 1926 in a Douglas M-2 airplane. I don't know when the beacons and arrows were constructed along the route.
I have visited three of these arrows so far. I would like to visit more, if more exist.
One is located near the Bloomington Overlook cache by Drifty. If you vist that arrow and look where it points, you will see a crooked-topped mesa near Washington, Utah called Shinob Kibe.
Another arrow is located near the Shinob Kibe Cache by Astounding (That's me, of course! *smile*) atop that mesa. This particular arrow is airway beacon 37B or HO0622, part of the Los Angeles to Salt Lake City airway route, the "Contract Air Mail" route #4, or "CAM-4" route. If you visit the Shinob Kibe Cache, you can also log your visit to this arrow since it is listed as Airway Beacon Benchmark HO0622.
While recently visiting the Shinob Kibe arrow, I wondered if it pointed to the next arrow in the route, and if that next arrow still existed. Sure enough, the next arrow does exist. I used the search as an excuse to place a new cache, the Quail Creek Reservoir West Overlook cache, near the rim of the hill west of Quail Creek Reservoir. I placed the cache before I found the arrow. On the way back to my vehicle, a few hundred feet from where the cache is hidden, I came across the expected arrow.
Both the Shinob Kibe and the Quail Creek arrows show evidence that metal towers once stood above the central concrete pads. Also, both of these arrows are approximately 55 to 56 feet in length. I need to revisit the Bloomington Overlook arrow to see how long it is and whether it too shows evidence of a beacon tower.
I found a web site at the FAA that had this to say:
Built at intervals of approximately 10 miles, the standard beacon tower was 51 feet high, topped with a powerful rotating light. Below the rotating light, two course lights pointed forward and back along the airway. The course lights flashed a code to identify the beacon's number.These arrows in Southwestern Utah aren't quite 70 feet long. Since there is evidence of steel towers on at least two of these arrows, I think there is sufficent evidence that these arrows were a part of this or a similar air route beacon system.
The tower usually stood in the center of a concrete arrow 70 feet long. A generator shed, where required, stood at the "feather" end of the arrow.
If there were generators at the Shinob Kibe or Quail Creek arrows, the back concrete pads of both of these are tilted quite a bit (and don't show signs of great cracking or upheaval to indicate that the tilt is due to shifts in the ground), so I wonder how it worked.
Also, the only access route to the Shinob Kibe arrow is a narrow, single-file trail, so the concrete, steel, and/or any other equipment or supplies brought to that location would likely have been brought by pack animal, as is mentioned at the same FAA web page.
New Wallpaper Uploaded!
Sunday, 06 March 2005 10:57 PM MST
Near a concrete arrow, an aviation navigation aid from sometime around 1930, atop the Shinob Kibe mesa in Washington, Utah (the community next-door to St. George, Utah where I live), I came across some Indian Paintbrush, booming early admid the unusually green surroundings (unusually green for the desert due to recent unusually plentiful rain).
I got lucky. My camera caught just the angle I was looking for. And this shot filled my camera's compact flash card, so even if I'd wanted to, I couldn't have taken any more pictures.
Today at church I put the image on my notebook computer as my desktop wallpaper. (I bring my laptop computer to church to take minutes at some of the meetings I attend.) I liked the image so much, I decided to stick it on my web site as a new wallpaper selection.
To see or download larger resolution versions of this photo, visit my Wallpapers section of my web site.
What was I doing atop Shinob Kibe yesterday? Why I was there to replenish my Shinob Kibe geocache. Read my Astounding Adventures log entry for more details.
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Wednesday, 02 March 2005 8:59 PM MST
If this post's title rings a bell, then you've revealed that you're as hooked on LOST as I am, and as my parents, sisters, and brother are. This evening I visited my parents house in Hurricane. There we gathered together around the television, and watched the most recent episode of LOST that the TiVo had recorded.
I must say, having a TiVo to record programs for later watching is sweet. We skipped past the commercials and watched a one-hour episode in forty-something minutes, and were able to rewind in a few key spots when someone missed something, or pause when we wanted to talk a bit or just laugh ourselves silly.
I had a blast. I haven't enjoyed family television watching like this for a long time. The last TV series all of my family (at least those of us in southwestern Utah) all enjoyed this much and gathered together regularly to watch was Now and Again, about five years or so ago.
This episode of Lost, titled Numbers was one of our favorite. We laughed and laughed and laughed again and again throughout.
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