Sometimes it’s not so hard. I hop into the driver’s seat and stomp on the gas. Before I know it, I’ve arrived at my destination. No muss, no fuss. The time flies and we all had fun.
Other times, it’s watching mile markers… anticipating upcoming towns… making up stories about those being passed… talking to yourself in a special language only you understand.
Enter: the road trip.
Roadtripping with friends is nearly always a blast. A bunch of buddies pile in, you rock out to various tunes, you tell stories, you screw around, you switch drivers and switch nappers. Sometimes it causes you to stumble in a hotel constantly singing, “What are you trying to do, blackmail me?” as a horrible in-joke that will annoy others for the duration of your stay. Oh, sure, sometimes you bicker about directions or how someone is driving, but it blows over. There’s anticipation of a destination and anticipation of arriving home.
But roadtripping alone is a vastly different experience. Some folks who make lengthy commutes daily are typically used to that repetitive route and how to best fill their time, be it audiobooks or listening to the news or simply trying to battle traffic without going insane. People who live in the middle of nowhere tend to be used to a bit of traveling as well. However, it still doesn’t compare to an actual solo roadtrip.
Your driving experience will vary depending on what region you’re driving in: those in the northeast US typically deal with many lanes of traffic and nonstop city, while those in the midwest will drive for an hour and see nothing but four signs and a cow. Both can be completely maddening.
How does one fill this time and space without human contact? The most common answer is to listen to some good tunes.
There’s an art to choosing what music you play while driving and driving and driving as though there was no end. Play something too hypnotic and you’ll feel yourself becoming drowsy. Play something you know by heart and you might get completely bored. Play something totally new and there’s a risk of spacing out with no familiarity on which to focus. Nay, one must mix things up a bit, keep the flow interesting and entertaining. And if one might come to a point where they are fighting sleep, there must be something on hand which is lively enough to keep the one-person party rolling just a little bit longer.
Mix discs. Compilations. These are ideal. Stay in one genre, hopefully with a wide array of songs, many of them old favorites with a few acquaintances sprinkled throughout. You can skip the songs that annoy the piss out of you. As a rule, every compilation disc will have at least one of those. And even the finest mix discs which a person may have made themselves will still tend to have one winceworthy moment. Nobody cares. Just skip it.
Sanity? You need it on the road, and you need it badly. Without proper focus, one may find themselves creating conversation with passing cows. And trees. And bugs as they splatter on the windshield. To keep one able to cope with the road and not spin their brains into luluville, the best solution is singing. You can sing along without anyone crying and holding their ears. You can butcher lyrics and nobody will correct you. But best of all, it exercises your brain in a slightly more respectable fashion than making up stories about the truckers you pass.
Or you could call someone. PSHAW.
Even with these general guidelines, there are absolutely no guarantees that any of this will be effective. What once worked may fail in the future. This may be the best argument of all for keeping things fresh, although sometimes it’s the old comfort of repetition that one craves. Still, there will be a day where some particular disc simply isn’t cutting it. You must switch it out or go crazy. But the next day, it’s perfectly fine.
Perhaps this is getting a smidgen too clinical. After all, it’s a long drive. Stay focused, stay interested, stay alive. Play music and you have some company. Not complicated. To that, all I can say is try driving a long way with sub-par music in the player. It simply cannot be done without lilting towards insanity. And the last thing the world needs is another psychopath behind the wheel.
Now, I don’t know what works for each individual person. Hell, listen to Learn To Speak Spanish for all I care if that’s what does the trick. But consider your mood when driving and see if a switch in tunes doesn’t help the time pass a bit more pleasantly. Sometimes, metalheads need to relax a bit. Hip hop fans should clear the bass from their brains. Whiny indie rock kids could use some cheering up. It’s not about being cool; you’re the only motherf*cker in the car, remember? Do what works best for the situation at hand.
I know what you’re thinking. “Dearest Gloomchen, what makes you the expert?”
I’ve gone crazy behind the wheel driving 4+ hours far too many times to count. That is what makes me an expert. Bitches, doubting my skillz.
With that, I offer a few suggestions to toss in and about when traversing across vast expanses of land:
Scorpions, “Rock You Like a Hurricane”
50 Cent, “In Da Club”
Til Tuesday, “Voices Carry”
The Cure, “Love Cats”
Beastie Boys, “Intergalactic”
Warrant, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”
Echo and the Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon”
Slayer, “Raining Blood”
Aaliyah, “Are You That Somebody”
Night Ranger, “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”
Black Eyed Peas, “Let’s Get Retarded”
Fear Factory, “Shock”
Wham!, “Careless Whisper”
Depeche Mode, “I Feel You”
Poison, “Fallen Angel”
Outkast, “Bombs Over Baghdad”
Scissor Sisters, “Tits On the Radio”
…and before you speak a word, yes. Nearly all of these songs are in mix discs in my car and in a similar order, interspersed with some more obscure stuff. And good lord does the variety keep me vibrant.
Maybe the road has already driven me insane, I don’t know at this point.
It’s vastly recommended that you find company on long road trips. I guarantee that no playlist abominations like mine would ever fly with others in the car and that might help keep your brain in proper function as well. Many times, it’s just not possible. So what’s your option? Tunes or picking up a hitchhiker?
Sit back, set the cruise, and entertain the hell out of yourself. It’s not much farther, I promise.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight,