After being back at work for only a short time and the with whole year stretching out in front of me before another summer break I am inadvertently looking for a way to constantly re-live the summer each day. Almost subconsciously I found myself creating a play list in my iTunes… when I looked closer at each of the songs I realised that each song reminded me of a particular road trip. Here is my summer memory road trip play list:
Sunsets – Powderfinger
Its New Year’s Day and I was feeling a little worse for wear – definitely not up for the 5-hour drive down the south coast to where my friends were camping. The weather was amazing, I spent most of the day at the beach putting off the inevitable drive until the last moment. Finally, as the hordes of beach goers were starting to pack up their umbrellas and sandcastles I knew it was time to leave. But how to make such a journey bearable? Having forgotten to charge my iPod I was preparing for the worst trip of my life, when I spied a CD under a pile of semi important papers that I generally ignore – I grabbed it and hit the road.
On the way out of Sydney I tried to make the best of the radio for as long as I had it, but all too soon I was on the highway cruising easily in the outbound lane – in the other direction the traffic was at a near standstill as hundreds of family’s returned from a day on the southern beaches. Suddenly as I entered a part of the highway that was covered with bush on both sides the radio dropped out… I sighed in annoyance as I stared patiently at the head deck to see if sheer will power would extend its reception – it didn’t.
I grabbed the miscellaneous mix CD – it was scuffed and scratched and for the life of me I couldn’t remember what was on it.
As the player ate up the CD the car drifted out of the bush and started to crest a hill. The opening bars of Powderfinger’s Sunsets blew out my open windows as the evening sun blinded me through the windshield. I coasted down the hill, foot off the accelerator, picking up speed, my hair flying out the window – it was a fist pump moment and I embraced it! Suddenly the road seemed wonderful and large, full of possibilities and grand destinations – I sang the whole way there!
Boys of Summer – The Ataris
When you’re seventeen every day is a road trip. I don’t think any of our teachers actually expected their students to turn up for class when it was 38 degrees out and the river was beckoning.
Every day of summer my friend would come and pick me up in her dated light blue Datsun that had a pump clutch. Her Dad had done it up for her along with matching seat covers for her birthday – it was the best car in the world!
The car was always hot, but we didn’t mind, as it was an excuse to have our windows down, leaning on the sill letting our hair catch in the breeze – we were young and vain. If we weren’t at school we drove out of town to the river, there was one CD that we played constantly over the summer, and one song that we would pump up every time. The Boys of Summer by the Ataris – every time I hear it I can smell burning bitumen, sweat and river water – it was a sweeter time.
Little Lion Man – Mumford and Sons
I took a break between uni and real life and decided to do what most Australians never do – road trip the east coast. Talk to any backpacker and I guarantee they have seen more of Australia’s great wonders than the biggest true blue bogan. So naturally when I got to Airlie Beach I had to head out on a boat and see the Whitsundays (I was the only Australian apart from the crew on board). Soon I was relaxing on a sailboat with 20 others, miles away from the cesspool of bars and camper vans.
It was a strange isolating freedom – floating trapped on a boat in the great expanse.
Our yacht – anchored while we went diving
For the next three days we all bonded, drank too much goon, went scuba diving and sun bathing, walked along the most beautiful beach in the world (Whitehaven) and ate food that was shockingly tasty. Before we left on the first day the whole boat had been bought into “The End of the World Game” (for those of you who don’t know what that is – it’s when you can’t say the word “mine” – if you do you have to drop and give 10 push ups NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE!)
Can you imagine spending three days with people constantly asking questions to trip you up – and we all failed (except one Scottish guy who no matter how much goon he consumed he never succumbed to the trickery), I did more push ups in those three days than I have in my whole life.
Finally sun burnt, covered in bites, exhausted, hung over and completely mellow the yacht headed back to Airlie Beach. Half of the group was falling asleep in the fading afternoon sun; the other half had were already deep in their own dreams of hot showers and clean toilets. Suddenly Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons started blaring through the speakers. As one we all woke up, dragging our minds out of the restful states to group together in the false camaraderie that only backpackers who have been trapped together for a length of time have. The Scot lead the charge as he leapt onto an esky and started belting out the words – we crowded around him and let our croaked voices mingle with his. Singing at the top of our lungs the whole boat went silent at the line “Its not your fault but…” – as we stared into each other’s faces to see who would slip up – three days of the game had taught us to be careful. To this day I can’t sing that whole line, and every time I hear it I feel as though I am back on that boat, exhausted and mellow!
Johnny Farnaham – You’re the Voice
Do you ever have those moments that feel as though they should be in a movie – or straight off Broadway? Moments that are so surreal and cheesy that only Hollywood could do them justice. Well who better to sing in a moment worthy of Adam Pontipee and his brothers than Johnny Farnham.
I was on a bus in Italy traveling from Genoa to Nice, it was the middle of summer and as always is the case when its stinky hot – the aircon had stopped working. So you can imagine the groan that ricocheted around the bus once a traffic jam was spotted up ahead. An hour and a half later and we had barely moved – the bus driver was on the phone to various people who were giving up updates on the jam. It wasn’t going anywhere soon – there had been a fatal crash in the tunnel ahead.
Now the whole bus was sweaty, hungry and irritable so the bus driver did the only thing that was left for him to do. He followed the train of cars that looked like they knew where they were going down a small side road. Slowly the road wound back and forth as it began to climb over the mountain it had previously been trying to go under. We all sat back in our sweat soaked seats and fell into the kind of stupor that only mind numbing heat and boredom can induce. As we climbed the radio that the driver had been blasting for the last several hours started to break up, he didn’t turn it off though just let it play broken songs from various stations as it moved through reception spots.
Suddenly the mood in the bus changed from lethargic to tense – on one side of the bus was a gigantic drop down the side of the mountain. The road was barely large enough for the bus. The bends became sharper and the bus had to do more than a few three point turns to get round them. As the radio crackled the whole bus held their breaths – staring resolutely ahead, ignoring the drop to one side.
After an hour of this it seemed as though we had crested the mountain and begun down the other side. As I realised this the radio suddenly came into tune – Johnny Farnham dulcet tones blasted down the bus.
This was that moment. As I sat back in my seat feeling my muscles relax I began subconsciously humming along, within a few lines I was singing. I looked across the isle and the girl opposite was doing the same – she smiled at me and we sang louder. As the courus started I relaised that we weren’t the only ones singing – looking up the isle I caught the eyes of at least six others who were laughing and smiling (I assume that they were part of the horde of Australians invading Europe – though I never asked), my German neighbor was grinning at me.
As the bus picked up speed on a straight bit of road two Kiwi boys in the middle of the bus stood up. Followed quickly by three girls at the front. Within a heartbeat nearly the whole bus was standing and attempting to sing the song – even those who didn’t know any of the words or who Johnny Farnham was. It was two minutes of a musical on a bus.
When the song died we all sat down, we didn’t make eye contact, we just sat back in our seats and let the heat wash back over us.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication
My semester abroad was in San Diego (please don’t start quoting Anchor Man – heard them all) so for a weekend a few fellow internationals and me took a weekend trip to the big smoke. The city of glamour and destruction – the city of angels – Los Angeles.
One thing you learn in America is that to take life by the horns – embrace it, absurdities and all. So in the spirit of things we headed to L.A in my friends white convertible with a special mix CD specifically designed by one of my travel companions from the UK. Every song on this CD related back to California – it was cheesy and poppy and quite frankly…Brilliant!
We did all the major sites, Rodeo drive where we met the town crier, Beverly Hills where I made everyone stand outside Ringo Star’s house for 20 minutes in the off chance he would take out the garbage, we walked along Mullholand Drive hunting for Serial killers – oh and looked at the sign. On our last afternoon we trekked it down to Santa Monica for a perusal through shops we couldn’t afford. As the afternoon wore on we slowly drifted towards the beach. It was a big beach – and ridiculously flat from being combed constantly. It was broken up by what we called Baywatch towers and the giant monstrosity at the end – Santa Monica Pier. Covered in Ferris Wheels and hot dogs it was simultaneously grotesques and awesome!
Walking on Santa Monica Beach
We sat on the beach and watched the beach slowly turn golden as one of California’s famous sunsets began to grow. Suddenly the Englishman jumped up “I’m going in the water” and like that he took off his shirt and ran into the water – an Englishman never wastes an opportunity to swim in the warm sea.
After a splash we began the long drive south to San Diego, the roof was down, the sun was setting, the Englishman was sopping wet in the backseat and the mix CD was playing continuously.
As we drove down Hollywood Blvd, Californication came on – the Englishman leaned forward and turned to volume up – this was California at its finest baby!
Sex on Fire – Kins of Leon
Ever been to Rockhampton? No? You’re not missing much. We rocked into town around 4pm after a solid 8 hours driving. The next stretch to Mackay was going to be another long hit so we decided to stay the night. What to do? Well there wasn’t many recommendation in Lonely Planet and our hostel owner looked at us like we were aliens – so we asked Google. Goole advised us that there was a movie theatre just a few streets away – why not!
It was your typical movie theatre, there were teenagers making out in the lobby and pop corn on the floor. I don’t even remember what movie we saw. I do remember coming out of the theatre and being starving. We drove around for about 15 minute and couldn’t see anything worth stopping at, so we did the typical Australian road trip thing – headed to the golden arches – McDonalds!
As my car didn’t have aircon we always had the windows down which meant we had to have the stereo up loud to combat the road noise. We pulled into the car-park with Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire blaring. Quite possibly one of the most awkward moments of the whole trip. In the car-park at 9pm, there were several families, teenagers drinking, adults drinking and just people loitering generally – and we rolled in like some punks. When we got of the car the half of Rockhampton was sitting there, they silently watched us walk into the building. After standing in line with the locals donned in trackies, ugg boots (or no shoes) and ratty hair extensions we grabbed our burgers and headed back to the car.
I hadn’t turned the radio down, when I started the engine Sex on Fire blasted the car park again. Now… I can look back and laugh!
Of course there are many more songs like – Scooby Snacks, Bohemian Like You, Walking on a Dream, and pretty much anything by the Beatles will bring up an image of the long open road which is always just out of reach, beckoning for me.