Cottage season starts today! In celebration, we take a look at how packing music for a road trip has changed, even in just the last five years.
RECORD STORE TALES #984: 2 Terabytes of Road Trip
Because music goes so well with the road, I’ve written a huge chunk of stories on the subject. Heck, we even made a list of Top 5 Road Trip Singalong scenes from movies. What I have come to realize now is that the days of painstakingly selecting music for the road are over. For good. Never coming back. And I’m fine with that.
Without music, driving is often a mind-numbing experience. A good soundtrack alleviates a lot of the irritation. As kids, we were fortunate enough to go to the cottage in the summer. All we had to do was make it through a two hour drive in the back seat. For entertainment, that required these three minimal things:
- A book/comic book to read.
- A Walkman with fresh batteries.
- Two hours of music (two cassette tapes).
Today, trying to read a book in the back seat of a car makes me road sick, and I don’t even own a Walkman anymore. Fortunately, now I am also the driver. That gives me access to the car stereo. I don’t know what the rules are where you come from, but around these parts, it’s “driver picks the tunes”. Aside from that one year that the speaker in the driver’s side door of my old Plymouth Sundance died, music has never sounded better in the car than when I’m behind the wheel.
With those years far behind me, I realize now that the biggest change to road tripping today is that I no longer spend hours choosing the music. I just load it all on a 2T hard drive and plug it in. As long as I own it and ripped it to the PC, then it comes with me everywhere. Every song I ever loved (and many that I don’t!) are with me at all times.
Before the advent of this wonderful technology, I would spend many hours packing for trips. Enough clothes plus some extra? Check. All the necessary toiletries? Yes. Reading material? Of course. Phone and charger? Can’t forget that stuff. But then I would spend an hour or more combing through my CD collection, picking all the music that would be with me for the next several days. Albums and mix CDs would be packed in a little portable CD carrier that I had. What you picked was what you had to listen to — no going back, so choose wisely!
The passengers, if any, would have to be considered. I don’t purposely play bands that people hate. But ultimately, I was choosing music to entertain myself, the driver. What the others liked or tolerated was of secondary concern. If Judas Priest had a new album out, damn right I would be packing the new Judas Priest. Point being, I have spent many painstaking hours choosing music to bring on the road with me. The limits were how many would fit in my CD carrier and whatever else I had to travel with. I would have to add an hour to my prep time, just for the music.
The dawn of the USB drive made things a lot easier, but still, storage space was very limited. And no matter how big the drives got, they were never big enough. I was still spending hours copying and pasting albums to the drive. Removing them when I realized I didn’t have room. Having to pick and choose through the Deep Purple live albums so as not to overload the drive with Purple and give some other bands a chance. Hours spent!
I don’t think I have ever properly appreciated the time that the 2T portable hard drive has given back to me. That one huge step that every road trip required — gone completely. More time to actually sit and enjoy my music!
I used to have a 1993 Honda Civic that had a mixed tape of Me First And The Gimme Gimmes stuck in the cassette deck, so it was either them or the radio lol. When CDs came in, for the POS edition of the Kia we drove in Saskatoon, that was super-cool. These days, my 14-year-old Subaru still has the CD player, but it reads CDr as well, which must’ve been an upgrade in 2008, who knows. My lovely wife just got a 2021 Subaru last October and it only has the radio and a USB port. That’s it. So now I send her with ripped MP3s on a thumb drive and she uses the touchscreen to navigate. By the time I get a new car it’ll probably be a wet-wire in my brain that plays whatever I’m thinking about in that moment.
My car is a 2010 model so it still has a CD player. When the family goes on trips, I listened to CD s while my wife and any other passengers listen to their mp3s or whatever technology they possess.
My 2012 Fit has a CD player but it is wearing out. Things get sketchy around track 7 or 8. I picked up a little digital player a couple of years ago. It plugs into the cigarette lighter and uses SD cards, USB sticks, or Bluetooth. I load it up with flac files once in a while. I just put on Max Webster and Van Halen discogs because it is spring. It has saved me from local radio.
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Van Halen is a spring staple for me. I did 5150 last week on the one day that I could roll down the window!
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