Traveling Through The Stars

 

desertstars2

There are two types of road trips. There is the “Let’s load up the car and explore” road trip, and then there are the road trips of reminiscence. The former requires fuel, did we forget anything checklist, and a map. The latter requires a cup of coffee, or if in the quiet of the evening a wee dram of a single malt as one remembers the faces and places that float past on the map of memory.

A columnist for Car and Driver magazine wrote an article about Ralph Nader and his disdain for cars in general and the Corvair in particular. The columnist came to the conclusion that Mr. Nader hated the automobile because families could take a road trip and see America. After seeing America for themselves they would come to the conclusion that Mr. Nader and those like him were full of something.

My heart belongs to the American West. Some of our more sophisticated citizens disdain people that live miles from nowhere. There are those that have learned to work with what the land has provided. My love for the West is tempered by the realization that what doesn’t bite you will probably stab, or sting you. There are miscreants and ne’er do wells that are scattered in the emptiness of the West. The West is not Disneyland. I find it odd that those who have never worked on a ranch, or ridden a horse as part of their working day have so much advice on how ranching should be done, or better yet not done at all. It is one thing to hug a tree. Hugging a cactus presents a problem.

Years ago my wife and I loaded up the car and took a road trip to the Tucson area to see my mom and dad. On the way back to Oregon we drove north and spent a day on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. As dusk came we started north to Utah. Nightfall found us on the road miles from nowhere. I could see the Milky Way through the windshield. I hit the seek button on the radio and the green digital numbers just kept ascending and descending on the display. There was no music to be had. Traveling through the stars is one reason my heart belongs to the American West.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Oh yes. I remember many years ago we were driving through the desert, no radio station anywhere and little lighting but the stars. And an unexpected meteor shower began. We were enthralled: what beauty, what a gift. Thanks for a beautiful post, Doug.

    • #1
  2. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Absolutely lovely. 

    My love affair with the US didn’t start till I was in my 20s when JY and I took a motorcycle trip throughout the west. No cell phone, no radio, just peace and quiet. Probably not a coincidence that we got engaged not long after. 

    Later years found us taking multiple trips in a 15 passenger van with four kids and a lot of stuff. Zero peace and quiet. Favorite “noisy memory” was driving in Alberta with various nieces, nephews and kids. The radio went out (as it was wont to do), then pain-in-the-neck daughter played DJ with her iPod and blasted Bohemian Rhapsody. 

    • #2
  3. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Funny how the AM radio dial becomes the last tether to humanity, when you’re out driving at night across the wide open spaces. I recall lots of times — on the Texas panhandle, across Kansas, in Arizona or Colorado — when the one station you could receive would be covering whichever local high school football game was on at the moment, and the game would change as you continued on down the highway.

    Then, later, when the ionosphere moved enough, you’d pick up the fifty thousand watts of KOB, broadcast from high atop the Sandia Mountains over Albuquerque. That was a hometown voice for me, and I recall picking it up as far away as Pennsylvania on one or another trip back east. Atmospheric physics is amazing in the wee hours of the morning.

    That was back when the “radio dial” was a real mechanical pointer drawn by a string across a linear strip of numerical frequencies. Now it’s digital, and the numbers just cycle around like the “please wait” icon of a Windows software update that never ends. Automation has spared us the subtle tweak-and-listen that used to consume the long empty miles, as we desperately sought to find something — anything — to listen to between Amarillo and Oklahoma City. (Thank G-d my old VW bug had an 8-track player, one I’d salvaged and installed myself. I owned only one tape, a collection of Arlo Guthrie songs featuring, of course, Alice’s Restaurant. I still remember all the words. What I didn’t know is that the 8-track player was defective, and I was hearing Arlo sing at a pitch somewhat higher than his own voice; I didn’t discover that until more than a decade later.)

    Delightful post, Doug. Thank you.

    • #3
  4. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    PS. Using my fairly small data sample, I’m amazed by how many people I know who lean left who have seen very little of the States. A lawyer of my acquaintance in his 70s recently admitted he’s never seen any of the west.

    All of the people I know who roll their eyes at states like Utah, Wyoming and Montana have never been there. 

    • #4
  5. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Funny how the AM radio dial becomes the last tether to humanity, when you’re out driving at night across the wide open spaces. I recall lots of times — on the Texas panhandle, across Kansas, in Arizona or Colorado — when the one station you could receive would be covering whichever local high school football game was on at the moment, and the game would change as you continued on down the highway.

    Then, later, when the ionosphere moved enough, you’d pick up the fifty thousand watts of KOB, broadcast from high atop the Sandia Mountains over Albuquerque. That was a hometown voice for me, and I recall picking it up as far away as Pennsylvania on one or another trip back east. Atmospheric physics is amazing in the wee hours of the morning.

    That was back when the “radio dial” was a real mechanical pointer drawn by a string across a linear strip of numerical frequencies. Now it’s digital, and the numbers just cycle around like the “please wait” icon of a Windows software update that never ends. Automation has spared us the subtle tweak-and-listen that used to consume the long empty miles, as we desperately sought to find something — anything — to listen to between Amarillo and Oklahoma City. (Thank G-d my old VW bug had an 8-track player, one I’d salvaged and installed myself. I owned only one tape, a collection of Arlo Guthrie songs featuring, of course, Alice’s Restaurant. I still remember all the words. What I didn’t know is that the 8-track player was defective, and I was hearing Arlo sing at a pitch somewhat higher than his own voice; I didn’t discover that until more than a decade later.)

    Delightful post, Doug. Thank you.

    Did you ever pick up the 50,000 watts of WOWO from Ft. Wayne? Just curious. 

    • #5
  6. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Funny how the AM radio dial becomes the last tether to humanity, when you’re out driving at night across the wide open spaces. I recall lots of times — on the Texas panhandle, across Kansas, in Arizona or Colorado — when the one station you could receive would be covering whichever local high school football game was on at the moment, and the game would change as you continued on down the highway.

    Then, later, when the ionosphere moved enough, you’d pick up the fifty thousand watts of KOB, broadcast from high atop the Sandia Mountains over Albuquerque. That was a hometown voice for me, and I recall picking it up as far away as Pennsylvania on one or another trip back east. Atmospheric physics is amazing in the wee hours of the morning.

    That was back when the “radio dial” was a real mechanical pointer drawn by a string across a linear strip of numerical frequencies. Now it’s digital, and the numbers just cycle around like the “please wait” icon of a Windows software update that never ends. Automation has spared us the subtle tweak-and-listen that used to consume the long empty miles, as we desperately sought to find something — anything — to listen to between Amarillo and Oklahoma City. (Thank G-d my old VW bug had an 8-track player, one I’d salvaged and installed myself. I owned only one tape, a collection of Arlo Guthrie songs featuring, of course, Alice’s Restaurant. I still remember all the words. What I didn’t know is that the 8-track player was defective, and I was hearing Arlo sing at a pitch somewhat higher than his own voice; I didn’t discover that until more than a decade later.)

    Delightful post, Doug. Thank you.

    Did you ever pick up the 50,000 watts of WOWO from Ft. Wayne? Just curious.

    Maybe, but I don’t remember. The only high-power stations I remember — perhaps because they were both hometown stations for me, since I’ve lived in the mile high cities of both Albuquerque and Denver — are KOB and KOA.

    (I did once fly out of Ft. Wayne on a small commuter aircraft during a tornado, returning from a business trip to North Manchester in 1992, that took out some of the control tower windows. The tornado, not the business trip.)

    • #6
  7. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Nice post!    Reminds me that a few years ago the lovely Mrs E and I flew to Las Vegas and then road tripped around the SW.   I had asked Ricochetti for some ‘creaky knees’ hike recommendations.   I don’t think I ever properly thanked everyone for the spectacular places they sent us to.   It was remarkable.   It makes me happy just knowing places that beautiful exist.    Perhaps the very best was Antelope Canyon near Page Arizona.

    • #7
  8. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Doug Watt: A columnist for Car and Driver magazine wrote an article about Ralph Nader and his disdain for cars in general and the Corvair in particular.

    The Corvair was a pretty decent car, and I thought of it as “America’s VW”.  Any car can be “unsafe at any speed” depending on who’s driving it and how . . .

    • #8
  9. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Stad (View Comment):

    Doug Watt: A columnist for Car and Driver magazine wrote an article about Ralph Nader and his disdain for cars in general and the Corvair in particular.

    The Corvair was a pretty decent car, and I thought of it as “America’s VW”. Any car can be “unsafe at any speed” depending on who’s driving it and how . . .

    Exactly this. Automobiles don’t move themselves. I’ve been on calls that involved drivers that used their vehicles in ways the manufacturer never imagined. I’ve been in a few chases that hit speeds of of 80, or 90 MPH on roads marked 45, and in one case marked 35. One chase ended when a 19 year-old with a felony armed robbery warrant crashed into the side of the building. We found a sawed off shotgun on the front seat of what was left of his car, he survived the crash.

    • #9
  10. Jim Causey Member
    Jim Causey
    @JayCee

    @HartmannvonAue

    Asked “Did you ever pick up the 50,000 watts of WOWO from Ft. Wayne? Just curious.”

    Indeed. When I was a wee lad in the rural wilds of red clay Georgia, I’d pick up WOWO after dark when I was in bed.  That’s where I heard “Splish Splash” by Bobby Darin for the first time.  Must have been 1958 or 1959.  The 50,ooo watt station in Atlanta was (and is) WSB.  They played easy listening at that time.  Now talk and news.

    • #10
  11. navyjag Lincoln
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Good one Doug. And great timing. First vacation in 22 months coming up and driving from SF to Okla. via Cody, Wyoming, Denver and other cool places my wife has been reading about.  Probably won’t see a single homeless person. Did it 9 years ago and remember the forever drive on I10 through West Texas. Did have some great BBQ at the truck stops.

    • #11
  12. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Nice post! Reminds me that a few years ago the lovely Mrs E and I flew to Las Vegas and then road tripped around the SW. I had asked Ricochetti for some ‘creaky knees’ hike recommendations. I don’t think I ever properly thanked everyone for the spectacular places they sent us to. It was remarkable. It makes me happy just knowing places that beautiful exist. Perhaps the very best was Antelope Canyon near Page Arizona.

    Stunning pictures. I remember a brother in law saying after a week in Zion, that it was almost too much Every single place you looked was overwhelming. 

    • #12
  13. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    My love for the West is tempered by the realization that what doesn’t bite you will probably stab, or sting you.

    Therefore you have the sense to go out West to be as far away from politicians and lobbyists as possible. Congratulations!

    • #13
  14. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Stad (View Comment):

    Doug Watt: A columnist for Car and Driver magazine wrote an article about Ralph Nader and his disdain for cars in general and the Corvair in particular.

    The Corvair was a pretty decent car, and I thought of it as “America’s VW”. Any car can be “unsafe at any speed” depending on who’s driving it and how . . .

    Objective assessments of the Corvair showed that it was no more dangerous than other cars. But Nader needed a bogeyman.

    • #14
  15. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Doug Watt: My heart belongs to the American West. Some of our more sophisticated citizens disdain people that live miles from nowhere.

    An old, disused meaning of “sophisticated” is dishonest, misleading, impure, or adulterated. Heh.

    • #15