The hunnerdsecond episode of our podcast, Paul and Storm Talk About Some Stuff for Five to Ten Minutes (On Average), is now online.
This week’s episode: as we drive through the snows of North Carolina (???), we talk about personal travel landmarks both old and new; Storm goes deep on a Hannukah explanation, including temples, gorillas, and candle oil; holiday season jobs, and strategies for getting good tips; the guilty joy of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” and similar songs; and we go on a goodly-long while about how great Paul F. Tompkins is. Also, we drive over a hobo at some point.
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION ALERT: What are your own personal travel landmarks (past and/or present)? And what’s your “go to” holiday song?
“Boss! Stay on the path. There’s guerrillas in these woods.”
“There are no gorillas here.”
“Yeah, there is!”
“Sorry, gorillas are native to Equatorial Africa. No gorillas. Not here. No way.”
“Gorillas, right. He could have said ‘revolutionaries’, ‘freedom fighters’…no! ‘Guerrillas’. He did it on purpose. You can see it in his eyes…eye.”
When I was young (as I do again, now), I lived in a community in North Middle Tennessee called Barren Plain, just a few miles due north of Springfield, TN, and just south of the TN-KY state line. I had a great-grandmother who lived perhaps 20 minutes to the north in Adairville, KY, whom we would regularly visit. Approximately halfway into the trip, we would pass an antique tractor mounted atop a wooden pole about 10 or 12 feet in the air. This thing was placed at the end of a road, and I don’t know *how* it was put up there, and, moreover, I have no idea *WHY* it was put there. Nonetheless, we always referred to the road as “Tractor-on-the-pole Road”. I learned when I was in high school that the actual name of the road is “Barbee Road”, but I will always think of it as “Tractor-on-the-pole Road”, most likely until the day I die. For what it’s worth, I haven’t been out that way for a few years, but last I did, the tractor was still on the pole.
Other personal landmarks from more recent years include a NOAA Doppler radar station on US-41 between Trenton, and Pembroke, KY, which I regularly passed (as a rough halfway-point) between home and Hopkinsville High School in Hopkinsville, KY, where I taught the percussion section of the marching band in the Fall of 2000.
Also, as the lead guitarist and high harmony singer of my old band, “The Hauser Brothers”, I would frequently make the roughly hour-and-fifteen-minute drive from my apartment in Clarksville, TN to a fairly large nightclub called “Keller’s” in Hartsville, TN, where we played fairly regularly. This was a rather involved driving process, as there are no major highways offering a direct route. I would have to take IR-24 from Clarksville to Nashville, then backtrack up IR-65 to Goodlettsville, then exit onto Vietnam Veterans Boulevard to get to Hendersonville, TN. From there, I would take US-31E into Gallatin, TN, and then take TN-25 into Hartsville. Between Gallatin and Hartsville is a tiny community known as Castalian Springs, and the little green sign indicating that I had entered this community meant that I had survived the entire complicated ordeal and was within a few minutes of the venue…in short, that little green sign meant a HUGE sigh of relief.
As to a “go-to” holiday song, I can’t say that I have one. Generally, at the time any holiday-related songs appear on the radio (which, of course, near-universally means Christmas songs), I’m not even totally over Hallowe’en yet, so I’m aggravated at the commercialism that is already ensuing…so, perhaps “The Way-Too-Early Christmas Song” could be considered my “go-to”!!!
For a while in the late ’90s I lived in Northern Virginia and was seeing a girl down in Williamsburg. I would go down to see her most weekends, so I got very familiar with the route. On I-95 South, right near Kings Dominion, there was a large white paint splatter on the road which I came to refer to as The Stain. When I reached that, I knew I was about half way to Williamsburg.
On the go-to Christmas song front I’ve got a ton, but one stands out. I love Christmas music and I start listening to it 1000 hours before Christmas (8 am on November 13th for those of you playing at home). I’ve been doing that since college, and every year I start with the same song – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by the Pointer Sisters, the first cut off the first Very Special Christmas album.
Psst…the MP3 for all the podcasts are redirecting to this page:
Travel landmark: Harris Ranch on I-5, heading up from Los Angeles to northern California. Basically, a big cattle feedlot, and a time to close all windows and shut the air vents.
Go-to holiday song: Anything off “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Just takes a couple of Vince Guaraldi piano notes to put me under the tree in my jammies, shaking the box I hope contains a 2-XL robot pal.
Gaffney is in SC you jerks!
Haven’t listened yet, but my personal landmark:
Ipswich, Massachusetts: The cow on the roof
Yes, there is an icen cream place (I think) with a plaster cow statue on the roof.
When you’re a kid, what’s a better sight than a suicidal cow? NOTHING, that’s what.
Landmark: The “singing road” outside of Lancaster, CA. I’ll go way out of my way to drive over this very loose approximation of the William Tell Overture rendered in asphalt.
Go-to holiday song: Chiron Beta Prime (sorry, guys).
I remember a particular intersection, actually very close to my house, that we would come to when we were about 10-15 minutes away from home on return trips from various holiday celebrations (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.) with my dad’s side of the family, up in Pittsburgh. The drive from Pittsburgh to Springfield, VA was about five hours, which was a long, but not insufferable ride for my younger self, especially since I got the whole backseat of the minivan to myself. The funny thing about that intersection was that although I’ve probably been by it hundreds of times, it only takes on special significance on those return trips. It’s the first thing that looks truly familiar to me.
I don’t think I’ve quite lived long enough to have a particular song that inspires the fuzzy holiday feelings yet, but Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes close. Also, Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas makes me smile.
My family would often visit an aunt, uncle, and cousins (one of which was my age, a special treat for me) in Ames, Iowa. After we got off the highway and drove through town just a bit we would pass a house that was also a daycare. They had a picket fence that was painted so each picket was a differently colored crayon. I always thought that fence was great, and watched for it. It was such a disappointment when that fence was removed.
Also, every year the extended family would go up to a lake in Minnesota. On the final stretch of the trip was a country road that had a lot of little hills, and if you got in a car with the right driver was like a mini-roller coaster. Getting into the right car was a matter of serious negotiation at the previous rest stop, you didn’t want to be in the vehicle towing the boat. That road and it’s stomach-flipping hills (if taken at enough speed) always felt like the real start of vacation.
If possible, please include the podcast in the cruise schedule! I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that being an audience member for a recording would be pretty darn cool.
BTW, I’m not particularly fond of most holiday music (since it’s rarely new and original), but White Christmas is always welcome – as long as it’s performed by Bing Crosby or the Drifters.
When I was a tot (of the non-tater kind), my family lived in a small town in west central Alabama called Eutaw. My maternal grandparents lived in a small town in south Alabama called Monroeville. Whenever we would drive down there, I had all the (major) towns along the way memorized so that I could recite them in order and could tell how far along we were. I believe this was an attempt by my parents to stave off the inevitable “Are we there YET?” questions.
Demopolis, Linden, Dixons Mill, Pine Hill, Thomasville, Grove Hill, Monroeville!
I would also say that I could smell Granddaddy’s feet about 50 miles before we got to Monroeville, because there was a paper mill somewhere along the way and…well…they stink to high heaven. 🙂
As for Christmas music, the instrumental piece “Skating” from the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special DEFINES Christmas for me. I hear it and it’s instantly Christmas. It’s the first Christmas-themed music I play on my iPod when the season rolls around.
Being from Wisconsin and heading to Chicago on I-90, there’s a clock tower in Rockford (with the helpful label “Clock Tower” underneath the face) that us restless kids always used as reassurance that we were past the halfway point and all that remained was the boring, flat stretch between there and the suburbs.
The big blue water tower in Amherst, NY. It’s right where I-90 and I-290 merge. You can’t miss it.
It’s the first Google search result for “big blue water tower”
Travel Landmark: the Giant Sunflower Painting in Goodland, KS. Ah, family christmas trip memories.
Go-To christmas song: O come, O come emmanuel from the CD “Broadway Carols for a Cure”
When I was a kid, no where defined visiting family like going to Ricky’s Cellar!!!! Not sure there was anything memorable on a trip from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady.
Whenever I used to drive to RI to visit friends, I would always know I was almost there when I pulled in to their local Tim Hortons. Now, I will be passing the husk of what was Tim Hortons, crying.
i live in Indianapolis and travel I70 to St Louis. on the way, I always pass that super tall cross at efinham, IL
I have the original 45 of McCartney: Wonderful Christmastime. The B-side is an instrumental called Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae. You can do the math.
I don’t understand all the hate for “Wonderful Christmastime”! I think it’s a good song to listen to around the holidays. My favorites are definitely all of Vince Guaraldi’s songs for Peanuts, with David Bowie/Bing Crosby’s rendition of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiXjbI3kRus) close behind.