Driving home from the gym today, I took a route that I don’t usually drive on. It got me to thinking about the fact that when you live in a town (wether it’s all your life or just for a couple of years) you tend to “learn your way around”. You learn the fastest routes, the best routes for red lights or traffic and even the route that allows you to do all of your errands in order!
As a traveling musician, there’s a similar thing that happens from being on the road. The more you travel on certain roads, the more you learn about the area. Whenever we get a new person in the bus with us, they comment on how we seem to know where every Starbucks on the interstate. We also are pretty good at remembering where we left the Red Robins, Chipotles, Five Guys and every bbq joint we’ve ever been too.
Lately, we’ve been running the same route through St. Louis, just about every week. It goes like this; Nashville to Paducah, KY on I-24. Then through Metropolis, IL., Mount Vernon, IL., East St. Louis and then St. Louis. From there we might go north or west. Funny how we always manage to hit St. Louis at lunch time and Zia’s is always “on the way”!
Between Nashville and Paducah, there are only two Starbucks. Both in Paducah; one’s at Lourdes Hospital (always fun to stop at the hospital with a new guy and tell him we’re going in for a quick blood transfusion!) and one’s in the mall. Depends on what time we’re blowing through town and just how fast we’re rolling as to which one we stop at. Coming out of Nashville on I-24 there’s a big hill that you have to drive over and it has two big cell towers on the south side of the interstate. If you’re rolling before daybreak and especially if it’s foggy, the flashing lights on top of the cell towers look just like police blue lights. Always a great way to get the heart rate up for driving! Passing through Clarksville I always think of Jimi Hendrix and his time there with the 101’st Airborne and gigging there and later in Nashville with Billy Cox. Metropolis; I look for the water tank with Superman on it. There’s also a Exxon gas station on I-24 that sells BBQ’ed fried baloney sandwiches! I’m pretty sure there not that good for you. Mostly because they taste soooo good! Carbondale is the next place for Starbucks and they also have a Steak and Shake right across the street. Good place to re-fuel at the Flying J too. On I-64, especially coming home, I see the signs for Nashville, IL and it always feels like a cruel joke knowing that we’ve still got some miles to go. Crossing those rivers; the Tennessee, the Ohio and especially the Mississippi still excites me. I never get used to the magnitude of those big rivers.
Then of course there’s the soundtrack. When you’re driving, it’s important that you’ve got good music to listen to. Also, it’s important that you have the right music to listen to. Usually, we leave Nashville and it’s been a couple of days since we’ve seen each other. It’s usually about a half-hour to an hour of what’s been going on at home and general chit-chat before everyone settles into “long-drive” mode. Some sleep (I’ve been in too many wrecks for that ever really work for me), some read and everyone pops the little white ear plugs that Apple kindly gave us (for a nominal fee of course) and for the next 5-6 hours it’s dead silence. Somebody will get a phone call or maybe need to stop for something but for the most part an entire CD can play through before you stop. You need music that keeps you engaged and alert, not soothing stuff, no matter how much you enjoy it. Depending on my mood and what I’m into at the time anything can go either way. Lately “good” driving music has been; Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, BB King, Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle. “Not good” music is usually instrumental music. Bach can get you killed if you’re not careful! If the ‘drowseys’ start to set in, just wake somebody up and get them talking. Sometimes that’s as good as a cup of coffee for getting you back on point. As I read back through this ramble, I realize that the person writing it could very well be a truck driver or a traveling salesman. The only thing that makes what we do different is the gig at the end of the trip. Thank God for the gig!