Saturday, September 8, 2007

Steve Fossett: The Podcast (w/ Richard Branson!)

OK, so we didn't do a regular show this week. We've got something better.

We just put together a special edition that features parts of my interviews that include details and discussions that didn't make it into my coverage. The whole 45-minute show includes chats with:

* Sir Richard Branson, Virgin mogul and friend/financier of Fossett
* Ex-CBOT chairman Patrick Arbor, friend/adventure pal of Fossett
* A choice piece of press briefing from Civil Air Patrol's Cynthia Ryan
* Chat with Gary Derks, spokesman for the NV Division of Emergency Management.

Click here to hear it or right-click here to download it and listen to it at your leisure. Or, as you ought to, subscribe to "The Strip" via iTunes by clicking here.

A Productive Trip Indeed

Figured I'd list the links to the rest of my work from the Fossett trip:

* NYT: Profile of the Flying M Ranch. For print and online on 9/8.
* NYT: Interview with Sir Richard Branson interview on Fossett. For online on 9/7.
* Las Vegas Weekly: Column on Fossett, Nevada and conspiracies. Posted 9/7.
* Wired News: A geeky look at the technology employed in the search. Posted 9/7.
* KNPR: I was interviewed by Michael Squires for "State of Nevada" on Fossett. Aired 9/7.

I plan to listen to my recorded audio on Saturday and decide what might be worth putting out as a podcast. Not sure if there's that much interest or not.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Roving Reporter's Diet

As I was cleaning out my rental car in Reno this afternoon before my flight, pitching empty bottles and wrappers, I realized that I'd eaten pretty miserably while on this 48-hour Steve Fossett junket. I wondered if I could recount the horror of my diet since I departed Wednesday afternoon. I had, by the by, chopped up a nice salad and bought a pre-cooked chicken for dinner at our stead for that night, so when I'm not working around the clock I do like to eat somewhat properly.

Here it is, in order:

Wednesday evening

3 bags of Southwest peanuts in flight
1 cup of water
1 bag of spicy beef jerky
1/2 bag of gummy bears left over from San Diego trip last weekend
1/2 bag of almonds left over from SD trip last weekend
1 bottle of water
1 bottle of V8 tomato juice
1 bottle Diet 7-Up
6 Chicken McNuggets & fries, both w/ranch dressing
1 medium cup of half water, half light lemonade from McD fountain
1 stick of "5" Cobalt gum by Wrigley


1 cup of coffee
1 blueberry muffin
1 large orange-flavored energy drink
1 large AM/PM coffee of 1/2 French vanilla cappuccino, 1/2 regular coffee
1 bottle of V8 tomato juice
1 bottle of Diet 7-Up
1 box of Good N Plentys
1 package of Keebler soft chocolate chip cookies
1 stick of "5" Cobalt gum by Wrigley


1 bottle of water
1 bag of Famous Amos cookies
1 roast beef sandwich on sour dough with mustard & mayo
1 small bowl of mixed fruit
1 cup of water in flight
1 stick of "5" Cobalt gum by Wrigley

Total hours of sleep in 2 nights at the Best Western Minden: 6.5

Once I got home, I enjoyed the aforementioned salad I intended to eat on Wednesday with bacon ranch dressing with some diced chicken. Oddly, I wasn't hungry enough to eat all of it!!!

Tomorrow we're going to Bagelmania!!! Woo-hoo! Good to be home!

Fossett Sightings Abound!

Here we go... A minister near El Paso, Texas, emailed me this morning saying he'd seen Steve Fossett at a filling station down there in a Ford Mustang. He left his number, so I called.

The fellow, whom I will not name because I know he means well, explained he turned around and, "Boy gosh, that guy was Steve Fossett!" The man he saw pulled right out in front of my "source" in a vintage black Ford Mustang convertible and got on Interstate 10. "The guy looked a little spacy," I was told. "I wondered if he realized they're lookin' for him."

I am NOT making this up. He also said, "I sure hope it was him. I'd sure hate if we lost him. He's a great man."

I called Nevada Civil Air Patrol Maj. Cynthia Ryan, spokeswoman for the massive search, to let her know.

"We've getting those by the hundreds," Ryan said. "There's a psychic in Ohio who knows where he is and can lead us to him if we'd only follow her instructions. We have someone devoted to nothing else but these sorts of sightings. If they could only put this to work on the lottery. I guess we just have to delight in the diversity of humanity and give everyone their shot."

I asked if she wanted this fellow's name and number and she said, "No, not really. We can't even wade through what we have."

Imagine if Fossett is never found!

Departing the Fossett Watch

Whew! I am done! After I post this, I'm going to take some pix of quaint Minden and then head to Reno to fly home. I'm off Fossett duty until there's some definitive development.

I just filed to the NYT website a piece based off my chat with Sir Richard Branson this morning. That material should appear here in the next hour or so in some form or fashion. I may post the audio from that chat later, although I suspect it's kind of rough as Branson and I were both on cell phones and he was in Europe. There's some real news out of this, including some of Fossett's future plans. If it doesn't get posted there, I may post some of what was cut here after I get back to Vegas.

Also, I just filed my piece for tomorrow's newspaper about Barron Hilton's Flying M Ranch with insight from some interesting folks who have been there. I imagine it'll post on the Web site in the next several hours, too. Quite a place.

In addition, I had a kick-ass chat with Peter Frampton this morning that was so good, we're playing it on "The Strip" next week and holding the Steve Wynn bit for another week. (Sorry, Wynn-o-philes, but your wait shall be rewarded, I pledge.) And if you don't care about Frampton, you should know I knew very little of him until about 10 p.m. last night and still I assure you you'll love this discussion.

OK. I'm out for now. The Best Western Minden needs my room for some other inbound journo.

Frampton, Fossett, Forbes and Friess

Amid all the rest of what I'm doing here, I am interviewing Peter Frampton this morning for an upcoming episode of "The Strip" podcast. And here's the weirdest thing: In doing my research for this chat last night, I noticed that Frampton and Fossett share a birthday, April 22. Now what the hell are the odds of that? Almost as strange as the experience of leaving messages with a reasonably confused secretary from Steve Friess for Steve Forbes about his pal Steve Fossett, perhaps?

Keep watch on this space. We should be publishing some new Fossett details I learned from Sir Richard Branson this morning on the Times site and I'll alert when that happens. Meanwhile, here's my piece in the Times today.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mid-Air Over Minden

The reflection from a window of me with the plane I went up in today. Cool, huh?

So here's the thing. I went up on a four-seat Cessna this afternoon with a local flight instructor who told us he knew the location of the fancy Flying M Ranch, owned by Paris Hilton's grandpa and where Steve Fossett took off. I wanted to see it. I shared the tab for this flight with journalists from the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Times of London, lovely blokes both.

Sadly, for $200 an hour our pilot was a bit incompetent. We wandered through the region searching for it and couldn't find it. My cell phone was working from up above, so I text messaged Miles and my "Petcast" co-host Emily to get them to find me GPS coordinates. We ended up with five different sets of coordinates, the final one of which was probably the most precise although all would have been in the right area. Emily, in fact, managed to spot the thing on a Google Earth map, but by the time we had that specific a pinpoint, our pilot said he really had to get back in for another appointment! Later, one of the Civil Air Patrol officials expressed bafflement that the pilot couldn't find a landmark that obvious and easy to spot; it's apparently right at a fork in a very prominent river. Oh well. I started to think the place was like the island on "Lost" and worried that if we did find it, we'd have to kill a legion of Others to get away.

Anywho, it was still a nice ride that gave us good perspective on the vast and difficult terrain the planes are facing as they seek Fossett. And I may have set myself good for some future assignments with the British newspapers, too. Always working an angle, I am.

Here are some more pix, each of which can be enlarged by clicking on them:

The mountainous terrain (above) and the flat area. The greenery you see is hay farms.

Interrupting the Fossett Stream For Vegas News!

I had to break in amid my ongoing chronicle of my Minden-Fossett adventures to send out a hearty kudos to the Las Vegas Hilton for the absolutely ingenious show concept they just announced. And I am totally, completely serious.

The Hilton launches a twice-daily regular live game show "The $250,000 Ultimate Game" on Oct. 8 with -- get this -- legendary game-show hosts Chuck Woolery, Bob Eubanks and Jamie Farr!!! OK, Jamie Farr isn't a legendary game-show host but he's appeared on a lot of them and he's a former wacky sitcom sidekick who has not gone on a vicious racist rant, so that's fun! The three of them will rotate as hosts for the show, which will cost $42 per ticket and will run at 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm with a total of nine shows. I know, that math doesn't add up right, but I'm going by what they sent me and more details aren't on yet.

Also unclear is what the game itself will be, but the release promises that an audience member will have the chance at each show to win $250K. If he/she does, all the audience members also get $100. They're also promising more than 50 winners per show and at least $50,o00 given away each week. That works out to an average of at least $111 per winner.

This is genius. I knew that "The Price Is Right Live" at Bally's has been doing decent business, but it's amazing that nobody's figured out until now that there's nothing Vegas visitors like more than to WIN MONEY. And that's a pretty decent gamble when you break down the numbers: $42 to be in an audience of, let's say, 300 people, 50 of whom will leave with an average of $111? You do the math; I can't. I'm still trying to comprehend what a 10,000-square-mile search area looks like.

Not to mention, $42 to see a live game show with a reasonable chance of winning something and with these guaranteed-to-be-fun stars? That's even a good entertainment bargain.

Now why don't they do this at night, too?

About to take a little flight...

I'm about to go up in a little plane to tool around for a bit and see what the rescuers see. Will post some pix from that later on. And my latest piece for the NY Times will likely post in the next hour or so, so keep watch for that. Fun stuff -- interviews with several prominent people who know Fossett well, including the pres of the Boy Scouts of America, the former chairman of the Chicago Board of Trade and others.

Meanwhile, here are some pix of Minden. I love that there's this greasy spoon right there at the Minden "airport" and I have every intention of trying their milkshakes which, I suspect, are killer. Minden is actually quite cute and I'll shoot some more pix later of the downtown area, complete with old buildings and stuff. Makes Boulder City look tres moderne.

Also love how they've posted signs to stop the press from crawling all over them.

Click on each to see it closer. Later!

Greetings from the luxurious Minden Best Western!

I landed in Reno last night having made my flight with about five minutes to spare. Then I wrangled mightily with the Hertz folks to get a car with an iPod jack -- oddly, I've found, the desk clerks never have any idea whether their cars have them and they usually do. I ended up with a Chevy Cobalt which is a cute little glorified golf cart that does the trick. I've been getting them a lot lately and, while they don't meet the standards of my car-nut partner, all I really care about these days is that auxiliary jack!

All I know about Minden thus far is that US 395 is well-signed with indications of where it is and, at 11 pm, the only things open are a McD's and an AM/PM. And that is likely to be all I find out. Not looking good for finding a Starbucks around here.

There are two versions of my Fossett work from yesterday available, one here for Wired News and the other is here for the New York Times. They're not terribly different except that Wired did let me deal with the flowering conspiracy theory issue involved. I just watched CNN's report from the Minden Air Field and they had nothing new to report today. But the Associated Press' excellent Northern Nevada correspondent Brendan Riley had this terrific backgrounder on what the Flying M Ranch is.

Mark my words, and I've been saying this since the beginning: The Steve Fossett disappearance will eternally be fodder for conspiracy theorists. And you know why? Because this is Nevada!

Stay tuned -- I hope to update throughout the day here and post some pix when I can. Now would be a really good time for me to have one of those air-card things, huh? But thankfully, the Best Western has free and reliable Wi-Fi and is only about 4 mins from the air field.

OK - gotta go get my complimentary breakfast!

If you really, really miss my voice...

Sorry about the lack of an episode of "The Strip" this week, but I did appear on KNPR on Wednesday morning to discuss the Larry Craig scandal and the issue of public sex and politics. You can hear that by clicking here or right-click here to download the file and hear it whenever you want.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Sorry folks -- I'm being shipped to Reno to cover the on-going Fossett saga. Will pick up again next week. Keep watch at for my stuff and we'll be back on track next week with Steve Wynn.

Also, keep watch on the feed for the Lynn Johnston interview, which will go up in the next day or so to go with my piece in a major national publication on changes to "For Better or For Worse."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Just Kinda Cool

It may be hard to see, but guess whose byline was right up there under the lead story on Google News a little while ago? Fun!

Official: O'Brien's Report is "Laughable"

The blather emitted from CNN's Miles O'Brien earlier today was laughed off by Civil Air Patrol Nevada Maj. Cynthia Ryan. O'Brien's claim was that Fossett might have wandered into restricted air space in "nearby" Area 51 or Nellis Air Force Base -- both 300+ miles away from where he went missing.

He based this on Ryan's utterance of the phrase"electronic evidence" during the press conference that he, like me, followed via TV. But what Ryan meant by that was not that some super-secret federal agency data but the fact that, somewhere in Oakland, there might be some radar blips representing Fossett's plane. Turns out, there aren't anyway.

Ryan told me O'Brien's comments are "laughable." I asked Ryan whether there's "restricted air space" in the region.

Ryan: It’s everywhere in this region and every experienced pilot knows that. Nevada is one huge training ground for the navy and the air force.

Friess: So if Fossett wandered into that, then you'd definitely know where he was.

Ryan: Yes, that's right.

So what O'Brien is positing is true, except that if Fossett had wandered into restricted air space, then there would be no need to figure out where he was. They'd know. Of course.

CNN's Nutty O'Brien: Fossett Conspiracy!

I'm covering the disappearance of Steve Fossett for the New York Times right now from Vegas. He's missing in remote western Nevada around 90 miles south of Reno.

Since I'm stuck following this case by phone calls and by watching the TV coverage, I'm sitting here amazed by the misinformation and awful speculation coming from CNN's Space & Technology Correspondent Miles O'Brien, who is phoning in his "expertise" from an undisclosed location.

First, he gets uppity about a question that reporters on the ground in Minden, Nev., didn't ask about a beacon the plane might have had that might be accessed via satellite. The reporters did ask whether that had yielded any info but the officials didn't know. "Shame on them," he barked at the reporters for not knowing the make and model of that transmitter.

Then, about an hour later, he's on the air with totally off-the-wall conspiracy theory that is based entirely on O'BRIEN'S LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF NEVADA GEOGRAPHY. He refers to something in the press conference about "electronic evidence" and then says:

"It is possible that Fossett flew into some restricted air space in that area. Nellis Air Force base is nearby, that's the home of the Thunderbirds. Not far also from Area 51 which everyone knows a little something about. It is possible that there was some sort of electronic radar information which the military might have had associated with that restricted air space."

Hey O'Brien! Nellis Air Force Base is more than 350 miles from where Fossett was flying. Area 51 is more than 300 miles.

Sheesh. Shame on YOU.

Monday, September 3, 2007


We're recording this week's show live on WEDNESDAY this week because, well, it's a holiday and I just don't feel like editing audio and writing a script today. And tomorrow is more like a Monday for me (and you, I suspect) so I'm just a little too busy.

The good news is, we're playing my latest chat with Steve Wynn. You won't want to miss it. Among our topics: Nightclubs, Macau, profits and his latest art purchase.

So come on down to LVROCKS.Com at 7:05ish pm PT on Wednesday and join us!