Road Trip Reflections: Music and Memories

I usually fly to Oregon for visits with family and friends.  Its quick, 1 hour, and less stressful than driving.  This summer I thought I’d try something different. So I’ve just spent the last two days driving from Sunnyvale, Ca to Newport, Or.  I know many people who have made this same drive all in one day, which worked fine for them.  I’m just not into sitting in my car for that long.  And perhaps I’m not that good of company for myself.  Excited about the destination though not the actual traveling, I left on Thursday morning with a trunk full of things I probably won’t need, my traveling companion (Leila) and a clear mind.  I plugged in my IPod and commenced driving.  One of the best things about the long drive was an opportunity to reconnect with my favorite music. As is so often the case, I get so consumed by other forms of media that music often takes a back seat and I forget that music is a comfortable old friend, always waiting for my return.  The soundtrack of my journey began with a little Alicia Keys, included some Bryan Adams, Daughtry, Death Cab for Cutie, Dixie Chicks, Fergie, Fink, Roberta Flack, The Fray, Fuel, Gaga, Gym Class Heroes, Incubus, Indigo Girls, Keith Urban, The Kooks, Lincoln Park, Madonna, Jo Dee Messina, Matchbox Twenty, Brad Paisley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sugar Land, KT Tunstall, Carrie Underwood, Ursula 1000, Butch Walker, Wailing Souls, 311, and ended with some great Rob Thomas.
One thing I hadn’t expected about this long drive was how both the music and road trip itself would evoke memories of times, long past.  As each mile passed by, a reconstruction of parts of the past began to reveal themselves in recognizable landmarks.

I’ve actually made this drive a couple times before.  The most recent, when I moved to CA in September of 2005.  We also made that trip over two days and I realized that the most beautiful part of the trip, through the Siskiyou and around Mt. Shasta were traveled at night, and so I was seeing this part for the first time in many many years.  And it was stunningly beautiful.  Mt. Shasta seemed to be playing tag with the cars as we wove in and out of its view.  And at one point I decided to pull off the freeway to get a picture by stopping on an overpass and jumping out of my car.  (It was perfectly safe, Mom.)  Of course, just 1/4 mile up the road there was a view point which would have served the same purpose.  The other time I made this drive and back was in 1998, when Lacey, Noah and I drove to San Jose for PACURH.  That drive was made in one fell swoop and as I drove past the Olive Pit at Corning, Ca I could vividly remember Lacey sitting on a picnic table outside of McDonalds with a coffee cup in one hand and a cigarette in the other (smokin’ and jokin’). And the stop at Noah’s favorite pizza place in Grants Pass where I had pepperoni pizza with ranch dressing for the first time, but still eat to this day.
Further into Oregon, as I approached the Rogue Valley, I recalled the summer day that Mark, Kyle and I drove there to attend the wedding of friend and former reslife staffer, Shawn.  We got so lost and finally had to stop and ask for directions because we thought there was no way the wedding would be out in the middle of nowhere river land.  But it was, in this beautiful area. And then there was the fun road trip just a few summers ago with Shelly to Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival and Crater Lake.  Where I learned the art of spotting stray buckets along the highway and deftly stopping to pick them up. (During this current trip I actually saw someone cross the interstate median to pick up a bucket on the opposite freeway!)
When the sounds of Matchbox Twenty came on, it took me back to the early 90’s when a couple of friends (Stephanie and Greg??) and I drove to Salem to see this little-known band at the Salem Armory.  There were only about 50 of us, hanging around this small stage in a quonset hut.  It was an amazing live music experience I will never forget.  In 2001, I saw them again, with Donny in the Rose Garden, from the third level.  While it was a fun concert, it just wasn’t the same.  And then there was the Nickleback concert with Mark also at the Salem Armory, after it became more of an actual venue, but before the band was well known in the states.  And the Jo Dee Messina concert at the State Fair with Patrick one summer, where I called Claire who had just left from visiting Oregon that day, so she could hear some of it.
Driving across, HWY 20 from Corvalis to Newport, I was reminded of the fun drives with Lonnie, singing “You Can’t Hurry Love” (Dixie Chicks) at the top of our lungs as we drove the back roads through Kings Valley, just to get out of Monmouth for awhile.  And all the great times with friends like the Wauers, Anthony, Michelle, and others from the Newport area, that we’d jump in cars and caravan to the valley for bowling, chinese food, or such, like when David once stopped the car, which was packed with eight people, and pretended that something was wrong with the car, just so those who were smokers could get out and have a cigarette.  The others were so annoyed by this.
There is a quote by Tennessee Williams, “In memory, everything seems to happen to music.”  I believe most of us would say there is a soundtrack to our lives.  In the last couple of day, I learned that when combined with a road map, that soundtrack can bring alive some of the most vivid and wonderful memories of times and friendships that feel so long ago, but linger still.

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