Travelers today have many advantages. We research attractions via websites, book our own accommodations online and then technology keeps us from getting lost, but are our trips really better or do they just seem easier? I miss the simple joys of AM radio.
Is That Boots Randolph?
Believe it or not, everyone in my family used to listen to the same thing. It wasn’t Dad listening to the stock report, Mom reading her Kindle, Sis texting and Baby Brother watching Disney on the video player. We listened to AM radio, soaking in local programming until the level of static overpowered the music. Then Dad would wind the tuning knob until another station came into range.
Boots Randolph, a saxophone player from the era of my childhood road trips, was a favorite of my dad. If there was a hint of sax in a song, Dad asked us if it was Boots. Our response was always gales of laughter, because we didn’t know his Boots from our Puss-in-Boots.
There was also the controversy of Neil vs. Glen. On one vacation, the song “Rhinestone Cowboy” was nauseously overplayed on both country and pop stations, in part, because it had been recorded by both Neil Diamond and Glen Campbell. As we made our way across the nation, we argued over which version was being played and which was best. Mom preferred Neil, while Dad supported Glen.
Good Sounds and Bad
Music was only allowed on the radio when my father, the sports nut, couldn’t find a game being announced. In summer, that meant baseball, but over time I learned to identify various sports by the cadence of the announcers’ voices. Dad’s gone now, but when I hear a game, any game, I always think of our road trips.
One August, on a trip to New Orleans, news took precedence over even Dad’s sports. The Watergate noose was tightening around Nixon’s neck. At a given moment, the president was going to speak. My father pulled into a parking lot, so he could listen without distractions. History was being made.
On that trip, my favorite aunt came along for the ride. Though sobered by events in our nation’s capital, delight wasn’t wrung from our trip. We still had the music. According to my aunt, the rear seat cushion bounced all day long and every song on the radio resulted in the cry from my sister or me, “Turn that up, it’s my song!”
On these trips we saw all kinds of attractions, visited museums and historic homes, played on beaches and tasted various cuisines, but somehow it’s the background noise I remember best. Along with the chatter about music we discussed subjects ranging from animal husbandry to the Napoleonic Wars to architectural styles, conversations which taught me where I’d come from and where I might enjoy going. Next time you see the USA in your Chevrolet, put down your personal entertainment device and see what memories you can make together.