May the road rise to meet you. And me.

I’ve got my car all packed with cassette tapes
and sweaters and loose change and cheap cigarettes
and I’m gonna drive thru the hills with my hand out
the window and sing till I run out of words.
I”m gonna stop at every truck stop, make small talk with waiters
and truck driving men.
I’m gonna fall asleep in the back seat with no one around but me and my friends
it’s gonna be so grand
it’s gonna be just like my wedding day, yeah
– Rosie Thomas, “Wedding Day”

Round about this time of year, I always get itchy for a road trip.

Growing up in, well, “the middle of nowhere,” I was lucky enough to have parents who were determined we should see the US and Canada from the windows of a Plymouth Grand Voyager – maroon red with woodgrain and wire wheels.  Every summer, we drove somewhere off the beaten track, and occasionally stopped to take in the scenery. 🙂

Fast forward a few years and I was in college at Anderson University, in Indiana. Every August and May, I made the 1600-mile trip in my little gold Saturn, “Doris.”  While daunting at first and boring at worst, I came to greatly anticipate my 3-day trek across Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. I learned to embrace the solitude – you want to know who you really are and what you really think about? Drive through Western Iowa, and imagine you haven’t spoken to anyone but the McDonald’s drive-thru lady in 36 hours. It’s a strange kind of high. It also brings out some amazing music from the very back pages of your CD case… but more on that in a minute.

I actually love the Midwest, though, nearly every bit. I loved driving through South Dakota, watching mind-blowing thunderstorms roll across the Badlands and seeing field after field of sunflowers raise their heads to the sky as the day passed. My destination there was always the town of Wall and their infamous drug store with its free ice water and 5 cent cup of coffee for Veterans. I recall ending up there once after a particularly long day of driving and, as I wandered the boardwalks, I realized I was old enough to go into a bar. Next thing I knew, I had bravely pushed in the squeaky screen door of a local cowboy dive, scooted onto a tall stool, and asked the old bar man for “a buffalo burger basket and something from the tap.” You can imagine the stares (and probably snickers) I got from the locals. But it was sort of a sign post occasion for me, not to mention a durn good meal. The bartender even entertained me with flirtatious stories and fancy coin tricks.

It seems I have a story like that from every road trip I’ve made, at least the ones in the USA. Here, the trips have been a bit less frequent and a bit more planned – we don’t have a car, so when we make the BIG splurge to rent one, every moment is precious. Still, we’re hoping to get it together later this summer and take a trip down to Carlow and Kilkenny to visit some friends. The hardest part might be getting me to give the car back… the freedom is so intoxicating! 🙂

But back to music. Have you ever seen the film Elizabethtown? This is one of those movies that Frank and I loudly disagree on, but I just think it’s brilliant. Not the best film out there, certainly not Cameron Crowe’s best, but I can identify with it on a dozen levels, and one of those is near the end (I’m not giving anything away!) when the guy takes a road trip that is planned out complete with music for each locale. It’s just so cool.

So what would I burn onto a mixed disc if I were taking an extended road trip this summer? A collection of old stand-byes and new favourites. Observe. And Enjoy. (*Note: Irish artists)

Maryann’s Spring Mix 2011

I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas
Mixedtape – Jamie Cullum
Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons
She’s Electric – Oasis
Don’t Wait Too Long – Madeleine Peyroux
Back to Indiana – The Elms
We Cry – The Script*
Collide – Howie Day
America – Razorlight
Saints and Sinners – Paddy Casey*
One Day Like This – Elbow*
Make You Feel My Love – Adele
Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s
Green Eyes – Coldplay
Chelsea Nights – Ryan Adams
Life Is Beautiful – Vega 4*
An American Girl – Tom Petty

My taste is definitely… well, MY taste. I know it can be a bit mellow for some, a bit rockin for others. But the way I figure it, a mixed CD is good if there’s not a single song you’d skip, no matter how much you play it.  And for driving, it needs to keep a certain pace, even if it’s slow. So that’s my basic criteria.

There’s also a few complete albums I couldn’t make any road trip without: The Essential Simon & Garfunkel, On A Rolling Ball by The Gabe Dixon Band, Eye to the Telescope by KT Tunstall, Since Kybram by Declan O’Rourke*, and anything and everything by Jamie Cullum.

Happy trails. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “May the road rise to meet you. And me.

  1. Coming to the close of a long-distance relationship, I’m familiar with roadtripping through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska. I identified with this post on so many levels and tried to put it into words myself after my last trip but couldn’t find the poetry of it. You nailed it.
    * The isolation and the high from that.
    * McDonalds, baby.
    * The specific towns you aim for.
    * Each new confirmation of your independence.
    * The exhilaration of breathtaking freedom.
    * The music you’d never find otherwise.

    Thanks 🙂 I feel like I lived this post.

  2. I’m the same way. I could drive forever. I don’t know why I love road trips but I enjoy them with and without other people. I love them most when they’re unplanned.

    Also I agree….Wall Drug is super cool. It is a place I still remember, even though I was only there once when I was six.

    However, I do NOT agree with Elizabethtown. I hated that movie. BUT I did like the concept of a soundtrack to a trip. I definitely have soundtracks that remind me of certain areas.

    Here’s hoping you get a fun and spontaneous road trip every now and then this year.

  3. I’ve always equated road trips and Maryann. Long stretches of time in the car is something I actually fear, and so I have always been amazed at your ability to hop in your car and head West. I definitely agree with you on the car = freedom thing though. Up until a few months ago I didn’t give it too much thought, but now that I have my own car it’s simply amazing. I feel like a whole new person independent of Regan. Funny what a set of wheels can do. Oh, and music. What a little music can do, too.

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