Yes, we probably shouldn’t have gotten out to eat lunch in southern Virginia, but everyone needed to stretch their legs. And no, it certainly wasn’t ideal to hit Washington, D.C. traffic at 4:45 p.m., but after some long delays and bumper-to-bumper, multi-lane traffic, we made it through. This week’s column comes to you from downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- the City of Brotherly Love.
The reason for the trip is to attend the National Student Media Convention and Production Awards put on annually by CBI (College Broadcasters Incorporated). Along with a teaching colleague, we brought with us seven students, including Sydney Wells, a finalist in the short form audio documentary category. Budget consciousness for our school and students revealed that driving a 15-passenger van (despite a longer trip) would save a significant amount of funds over booking flights for everyone, so that became the plan.
Sydney’s audio documentary is called “Behind the Stigma” and it was chosen as a national finalist. There were more than 900 entries submitted from schools across the country. It should be noted that there are no division tiers for these awards. Therefore, Sydney and Lander University are in the same category with three other schools -- Texas State, The American University in Cairo (Egypt) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yes, we are competing directly against M.I.T.
Taking a long road trip is a wonderfully grueling experience. Yes, it can be difficult. The miles start to add up as you try to get a little more comfortable in your seat or catch a few minutes of sleep. Traveling is tough for some. But it can also be fun. I believe it is an echo of the first taste of real freedom that most of us get as we move into the beginnings of adulthood.
Remember that day? Sure, your mom or dad or another adult drove you to the DMV so you could pass the driver’s education test. Study the rules. Pass the test. Pose for the photo. Get the little plastic card. Mom might let you drive home with her in the passenger seat, but then it’s time to drop her off. Life changes right there at that moment, because the next time you put the car in drive, it’s just you. Sweet freedom. And what do most of us do after we turn the first corner?
We turned on the radio. Loudly.
Yes, my friends, a carefully thought out soundtrack of road trip songs is not just optional. It is necessary. I saw it this week as we made our way up the east coast. A good song helps bring the trip to life (even though no one should be singing along with Aha’s 80s hit, “Take on Me.”) Seriously co-travelers, no one can hit that note.
There are songs that are just meant for the road, and I’m not just talking about Canned Heat or Willie Nelson. Don’t we all have driving songs? These are the tunes that somehow energize you as your drive or ride, seeming to sometimes take over behavior.
The first few minutes of Golden Earring’s 1973 classic, “Radar Love?”
My foot is pressing down on the accelerator. I don’t even notice.
War’s “Low Rider?” I put on my shades and hang an arm out the window.
These are road songs.
The Allman Brothers classic instrumental, “Jessica?” If it was good enough for Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) in “Field of Dreams,” it’s good enough for me.
So there it is, friends. Let’s hit the open road, let’s turn the music up and enjoy the ride.
Paul Crutcher is the broadcast specialist and XLR Radio general manager at Lander University. He serves on the national governing board for College Broadcasters Inc., the largest representation of college radio and television stations in the country. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulCrutcher.