Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Miss the Honky Tonks, Dairy Queens and 7-11s 

Road image via Top Left Pixel

Every road trip needs a playlist. These are not the songs we played from the dashboard of a car but ones that came to mind or we sang aloud as bugs flew into our smiles. Some are obvious and cliché. Some are obscure and fitting while others are simply the songs that bubbled to the surface when my spongy brain was squeezed of all its hydration.

You can download the tracks here (warning: it's a 150 mb file. Note: if using iTunes, import the files as you normally would, then import the playlist – that's the XML file – and the playlist should appear in the sidebar along with your other playlists). I'll make an embedded streaming version to play from this page when I have the time.

You can purchase the playlist in iTunes (will open in iTunes).

The Tunes

King of the Road
How can you start a road trip without thinking of this ode to the noble hobo and his ability to be a "man of means, with no means at all".

It's proven that 75% of all road songs are Western in style and involve cowboys somehow.

City of New Orleans
Another classic road tune, "Good morning, America… I'm a train called the City of New Orleans and I'll have gone 500 miles before the day is done." By the way, there is nothing at all confusing about a train called the "City of New Orleans".

On the Road Again
The other 25% of road tunes are about fellas leaving' ladies for the love of the open road. Check. This also brings to mind Mike Meyers' story of his mother never remembering song lyrics and always amending the chorus with a Vera Lynn-esque line, "No more roads, for me…"

You're the One That I Want
This tune is here solely because Glenn claimed to hum "Better Shape Up, or I'll need a van…" while biking but the beginning is uncannily similar to On the Road Again.
“...juvenile jocularity stays with you even if the hair on your head doesn't”
Benny and the Jets
There are a bevy of songs that push me on when the riding is tough. This one is in a playlist I listen to on Saturday rides heading North on Mississauga Road. I'm not sure of the numerical value of "bevy" but there are plenty more songs like this on this playlist. That being my personal association with them derives from riding while wearing headphones. Safety cares should be assuaged by knowing this happens whilst I'm in my bedroom, on a bike trainer. Yes, there is a bike trainer in my bedroom. If you know a better place, I'd like to hear it.

Hit Me Down, Sonny
I'm embarrassed that I know this song from a Volkswagen ad and I always think of the opening "…I'm making out like Speedy Gonzales … I-ah, I-ah, I think I'm on fire!" when the blacktop is rolling beneath me.

Do It Again
This is my sacred mantra when a gut-wrenching hill is trying to put me in my place. I just "Do it, do it, do it, do it again!" - there's also the explicit "Hey muthaf**ka" refrain that I repeat to tell the hill who is exactly in charge here. You don't own me, Hill.

When you've finished that climb, you need a triumphant anthem on the 70km/hr descent. This is that anthem.

When a ride becomes glorious, I feel like I could ride anywhere just like this song makes me feel. "Into open fields, we ride…"

Ride into the Sun
There is no song that better exemplifies my feeling on Saturday, August 25th when, as the sun was setting and my left leg was having spasms, I rode into Presqu'ile Provincial Park, sun in my eyes, begging the Universe for a campsite and a shower. There was and I did take that shower and then I slept the sleep of a thousand nights.

Tick of the Clock
There are times when the miles can seem to drone on like the monotony of the metronome.

Midnight City
…but then you get that second wind or you ride into town at dusk and the lights are coming up as the sun is going down as we did in Montreal. Like the closing saxophone on this track, it was spectacular.

Riding long distances can give you the enormously inflated feeling of immortality or just like you felt when you were 17.

Goodbye Stranger
"it was early morning yesterday… I was up before the dawn… must be movin' on …Goodbye Stranger". This song that should end somewhere near the halfway mark gets in your head almost every time you leave city limits and can be heard in every diner from here to Vermont.

That was Your Mother
Glenn might not remember this, but I think he had the haddock and I had chicken and biscuits, in a diner in Vermont (where they accepted Canadian cash, unlike the ungrateful New Yorkers). Goodbye Stranger played, then this song played as we left. No kidding. I remember thinking, they usually play Graceland from this album, but I like this one better. More upbeat. Plus, in the end, he goes to the "Lone Star Café", which is where we started in Kingston.

Northwest Passage
If you know me, you know I'm no Stan Rogers fan, but we shared a laugh waiting for the ferry to Wolfe Island talking about how this song was in Glenn's head the whole way when he rode to Alaska. Then it got in my head and I will not forgive him for it.

Don't Pay the Ferryman
Four ferries on this trip. Four times to sing this song, which is four more times than I would normally sing it.
“...if this is paradise, I wish I had a lawn mower”
(Nothing but) Flowers
This is a de facto camping/touring anthem. "This was a parking lot, now it's all covered in flowers", "I miss the Honky Tonks, Dairy Queens and 7-11s". Sometimes when you are communing with nature, you could also really go for an O'Henry candy bar.

The Swimming Song
This Loudon Wainwright song could keep me afloat in any storm and is at times a reminder to myself that you're not drowning but waving. "Last summer I almost drowned, but I held my breath, kicked my legs and moved my arms around."

Lakes of Pontchartrain
I know the geography is all wrong but crossing Lake Champlain (and it's rhyming name) reminded me of it.

Pink Moon
The most incredible sulphurous yellow moon emerged in North Hero, Vermont that made up for any rain that happened that day. Nick Drake doesn't have any songs for very orangey-yellowy moons, so this will have to do.

I'll be Here in the Morning
"There's no prettier sight than lookin' back on the town you left behind." Townes Van Zandt apparently knew something of the road.

Road to Nowhere
Glenn had the GPS. I just sort of followed and forgot where exactly I was supposed to be going anyway. It was clear my favourite part of touring was riding along a road and not wondering when you should turn around, because you don't turn around. It's appropriate there be multiple songs from The Talking Heads on this playlist (I left out Wild Life) as David Byrne is such an avid cyclist and traveller. Ride on.

This song always reminds me of summer road trips and came to me one time when we had a tailwind that pushed us uphill at a great speed and I was wondering where I could download "Instagram-style" Kodachrome-like photo filters for Photoshop as opposed to making them myself and saving it to the actions palette. The mind of the designer can be a horrendous place to spend a vacation.

On My Way Back Home
As soon as we turned North I had that "headin' home" feeling.

Broken Bicycles
This was on the last leg of the trip we started to notice, despite the heat, that a lot of leaves were already starting to change. Our trip was in it's third act and summer was on the wane. This was Glenn's Autumn song - "September's reminding July, it's time to say Good-bye" - Tom Waits captures that bittersweet feeling of seeing summer fade away better than anyone.

September Song
And this was my song for the passing of the summer season, and my own moving on into the Autumn years. I like the way Lou Reed sounds both contemplative and angry.

I've Been Everywhere
When you realize just how far you've gone, you can't help but think of Johnny Cash. You could make an entire playlist of Cash road songs but where's the challenge in that?

My Way
We went our way, by the scenic byway. Whenever we saw the signs in New York state for the "scenic byway", ribald punnery ensued proving that no matter how old you get, juvenile jocularity stays with you even if the hair on your head doesn't.

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