#984: 2 Terabytes of Road Trip

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:

  1. A book/comic book to read.
  2. A Walkman with fresh batteries.
  3. 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!

Sunday Chuckle: Gone Fishin’

I’m not a fishing guy at all, but I have a lot of friends who enjoy it regularly.  I saw this sticker on the back of a car and I had to take a photo.  This one is for my fishing buddies!

#782: Eliminated Headlight Restored

A sequel to #760: Eliminated Headlight

I saw Eliminator was now a one-eyed cyclops car. A headlight came off and was nowhere in sight. It’s gone. If it had simply fallen off, it would be on the shelf, next to the car. I only had two suspects. One of the two was more credible, while the other claims to know nothing. I know it was my dad!



GETTING MORE TALE #782:  Eliminated Headlight Restored

The old cottage bedroom isn’t the safe storage space it used to be!

For over 30 years, my old Monogram model kit of ZZ Top’s “Eliminator” car sat undisturbed.  The shelf it occupied was shared by a stunningly beautiful red Ferrari Testarossa, some old books, and several Lego battle droids.  Eliminator’s structure held sound, with only minor repairs needed over the years to keep it intact.

Then one day in 2019 a headlight went missing.  We didn’t need a confession to know that my dad did it while puttering around!

I thought the story was over, but a few weeks ago my dad said to me “I found your headlight”.

What?  Did it just fall behind the bed?

“No, I got you a new one!”

Right on, thanks dad!  Did you find an old model kit on Ebay?

“No, I saw a brand new one at the hobby store and picked it up for you!”

I couldn’t believe my luck!  But what are the chances the kits are the exact same?  Could I simply swap out an old headlight for a brand new one?

Turns out, I can.  Both kits are 1/72 scale, and though the new one is made by Revell instead of Monogram, they are identical.  Revell actually bought out Monogram in 2007, so they must have acquired these old molds and reissued the exact same kit.

Opening the kit and seeing the exact parts, I found myself at a crossroads.  I did a good job back in 1987-88 when I built my original Eliminator.  There are some things I would change; I would have painted the red engine block to be more accurate if I had another crack at it.  And now I do.  Or, I could just glue the new headlight onto the old car and leave it be.

Pros to building a new car:

  • Fixing mistakes I made as a kid, like the engine colour.
  • A higher budget, better tools, access to more paints.


  • Possibly screwing up and wrecking a new model kit.
  • I hate, hate, hate water decals.
  • Realising I’m not as good at this as I used to be.

“You know my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be,” I told my dad.

“Fuck your hands!” he responded.

I turned to my mom and asked if she just heard what he told me to do.  She did and said I should write about it.

Betcha didn’t expect that’s where this story would go at the start!  I neglected to take my father’s advice, but vowed to tell the tale in my own way.

The end.



The ZZ Top Eliminator Project will continue in Summer 2020.  What would you do with the model kit?  Let us know in the comments below.


#760: Eliminated Headlight

GETTING MORE TALE #760: Eliminated Headlight

As children, we were told many stories of what being a kid was like in the 1940s and 50s.  The greatest toy was Mecanno.  (My dad’s Mecanno #7 set was a treasured possession.)  Movies were 12 cents on Saturdays, and you could stay as long as you like.  (Once my dad went to go see Red Rider with his pal Jerry Irwin.  He stayed for four — well, three and a half — showings.  Then his father phoned the theatre looking for him, as he was supposed to home a long time ago!  Boy did he catch hell at home!)  One thing my dad always emphasized to us was how sad he was that all his childhood toys were gone.  His little brother wrecked some, and his dad threw out the rest.  He says they’d be priceless today.  All gone; somewhere in a Guelph landfill.

When kids move away from home, they don’t take everything with them.  Things like old toys get left behind.  That’s how my dad lost all his stuff.  I had trust in him that the same wouldn’t happen to me, and my sister.  The number of times we had to hear about his lost toys, his Mecanno #7 set, and all that stuff…I assumed he wouldn’t do that to us.

I assumed incorrectly.

A few months ago my sister was over at his house, went down into the basement to look at the board games…our old childhood board games…and they were gone.

We found some of them in a storage bin, but the rest had been thrown out.  That included my copy of Chopper Strike, a turn based combat strategy game that came with intricate little pieces and a massive two-level board.  I bought it at a garage sale for a couple dollars in the early 80s.  It was complete.  The game came with an army of plastic jeeps and helicopters.  The copters had rotating blades, and the jeeps had moving anti-aircraft guns.  Lots of easily lost components.  Rare for an such an old game (1976).  We played it over and over and over again as kids.  I thought it would remain safely stored at the old house.  It cost over $50 to replace it with a complete one again (thanks, Mom).

At least my dad saved some of the obviously valuable games, like our original Star Wars and Transformers.  Everything else from Admirals to Careers ended up in the trash, lost forever.  Feeling bad, my mom bought my sister a new Careers game on Ebay (and replaced my Chopper Strike).

I thought that was it.  I thought the point was made.  I thought our possessions were safe again.

Wrong again.

Some of my old model kits are at the cottage.  The cottage is a great place to build a model.  My ZZ Top Eliminator kit has safely lived at the cottage for 30 years.  A few years ago I took it out, dusted it off, and secured a few loose pieces with glue.  The last time I saw Eliminator, it was fine.

This time, I noticed a few things on my shelves had been moved.  When I returned them to their proper places, I saw Eliminator was now a one-eyed cyclops car.  A headlight came off and was nowhere in sight.  It’s gone.  If it had simply fallen off, it would be on the shelf, next to the car.  I only had two suspects.  One of the two was more credible, while the other claims to know nothing.  I know it was my dad!

“You can always pretend it was in an accident,” said my sister.

I used to think my stuff was safe in the hands of my dad.  Now I realize I need to keep valuables far, far away from him!

Sunday Chuckle: Meat’s New Tent

On Monday I bought a new car.  I look forward to taking it up to Sausagefest in a few weeks.  Uncle Meat will not be allowed to sleep in my car.

Look what shit-disturber Tom Morwood wrote!

#756.5: New Ride

If rock and roll is only about three things — girls, cars, and booze & drugs — then I took care of 1/3rd of my Rock N’ Roll Duty last night.

The new vehicle is as yet unnamed, but my new Chevy Equinox has arrived just in time for an oversized Sausagefest 2019.  No sleeping in this car, Uncle Meat!

The only thing that really matters to you, of course, is what’s up with the stereo?  A lot has changed in the 10 years since I bought ol’ blue, aka “Dougie Carmore”.  USB ports in the dash were brand new back then.  That car was a huge factor in my use of flash drives for all my music needs.  Now every car has one.  Funny thing though — the salesman who sold me the car had no idea you could just plug in a flash drive to listen to tunes.  He was trying to convince me to stream music from my phone.  Not necessary, my friend!  I came prepared with a 32 gig flash drive.  I plugged it in, and the stereo sounded great.

“I didn’t actually know you could do that,” he said.  Well now you know!  Am I the only guy who listens this way?

The first album played (in part) in the new car was Buddy Holly’s Millenium Collection.  The dash doesn’t display album cover art like others do, but that’s not a big deal.  The main thing is, I can play and access my music the way I am used to and equipped for.  Needing to give the stereo more of a workout, I chose Van Halen’s Diver Down to play next.  Both albums sounded terrific.  My new car is quieter, so now I can hear the music better at lower volume.

Big thanks to Craig and Samantha at Bennett GM in Cambridge for making this my easiest car purchase yet.  No pressure from them; nothing but courtesy and great service.  In and Craig’s case, a mutual love of rock.

On the road to rock, baby!


TV REVIEW: Top Gear – Bolivia Special (2009)

“Sticking to the code of the Top Gear brotherhood, I left James and Richard behind.” — Jeremy Clarkson

TOP GEAR – Bolivia Special (2009 BBC, 76 minutes)

I wanted to review an episode of Top Gear that had something to do with music, which isn’t hard since so many rock and pop stars from Ronnie Wood to Ed Sheeran have been on the show.  My favourite recurring Top Gear gag involved tormenting Richard Hammond with Genesis music, whom he despises.  Specially, the song “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” from Selling England by the Pound is frequently played as torture. I chose the Top Gear Bolivia special to review as it is especially funny, breathtaking and interesting through its entire length. I realized though, that the Genesis gag was not used in this special, thus negating any real music connection in this review (aside from James May’s nickname “Ted Nugent”).  So, here is the Genesis track, and I’ll review the episode anyway!

Skip to about 1:30 to hear Hammond’s “favourite” part

The challenge: Each man must purchase a car for less than £3,500, sight unseen, from a local Bolivian website.  They are advised to buy four-wheel-drive vehicles, to take them from a river in the middle of the Amazon, to Chile and the Pacific coast. It is a 1000 mile journey through jungle, desert, and bad roads.  The most dangerous road in the world, in fact — the infamous Death Road.

Jeremy Clarkson chose a Range Rover classic, Richard Hammond a Toyota Land Cruiser, and James May a Suzuki.  They are sent to the start point of the journey by boat, but the cars have not yet arrived.  The three are like fish completely out of water.  James May is not an outdoorsman, Hammond is afraid of insects, and Jeremy is allergic to hard labour.  They are, according to Clarkson, “the three worst explorers in history”, and they have been dumped on a riverbank in the middle of nowhere.

May:  “Since we didn’t know what to do, we sat down, and did nothing.”

The cars are sent to them by barge, with no apparent way to offload them to land.  Immediately it’s obvious that the guys may have bought lemons.  May’s car isn’t in the advertised colour, but worse, has no air in the tires.  Clarkson’s doesn’t have the engine it was advertised to have, leaving him with a less powerful 3.5L.  Hammond’s Toyota has been customized by hand into a convertible!

The Range Rover scores an early victory, when they use it to pull Jeremy out of the mud that he was standing (and sinking) in.  Much to everyone’s delight, the car actually started!  It is the Toyota that fails to start, an embarrassing beginning for the diminutive Hammond.  The following day, they figure out how to get the vehicles off the barge, on the ground, and running more or less properly, but it’s good fun watching them learn by trial and error!  It takes three days of hacking and slashing with machetes through the jungle, just to get to a road.  Clarkson is pleased to have bought “the only 1980’s Range Rover in the world, that works.”  Though he can’t say the same for any of his gauges.

Hammond on the other hand says that he has “bought the only malfunctioning Land Cruiser in the world.”  He has no brakes, and no gauges.  May’s Suzuki is small but sturdy.  Through it all, the three are always entertaining, picking on one another and always looking for an advantage.  They are quick to mock the Range Rover when it is first to break down (a piece of bamboo through the fan, destroying it).  Clarkson will have none of criticism, calling the Range Rover “the hero of the day”, and rightly pointing out that it was the Rover that got the other two off the barge.

Clarkson: “We passed the time by bickering, until the engine cooled down.”

Breaking down, getting stuck, it’s all in a day’s pay for the Top Gear three.  Through it the audience at home gets to see the innards of the Amazon in sparkling hi-def.  The jungle is beautiful, vibrant, and dangerous.  Roads come to sudden ends, rivers appear in the middle of nowhere, and the insects are always biting.  Mishaps are constant.  Clarkson accidentally sets fire to Hammond’s soft top while cutting vents in his own hood to keep his engine cool.

The biggest visual spectacle is the infamous Death Road, on the way to La Paz.  This road, which claims hundreds of lives every year, is best described as a little notch carved into the side of a cliff face.  And it’s the only highway between the Amazon and the major hub of La Paz, which means sometimes cars have to pass each other on this one-lane strip of dirt.  Breathtaking, terrifying…and James May is deathly afraid of heights.

As per usual, the men customize their vehicles, when they finally hit La Paz intact.  They must prepare for a desert journey through one of the driest places on earth — where it has never rained, and nothing can survive.  (“Richard Hammond was the smallest living organism for miles.” — Clarkson.) For desert traction, Clarkson and Hammond raise their vehicles and install larger tires, but this does not turn out to be the advantage they hoped for.  May, meanwhile just repaired his car (a faulty alternator) rather than change it.  But they can’t handle the lack of oxygen at 16,000 feet above sea level and are forced to turn back, and take a longer route to the Pan-America highway.  The Toyota suffers numerous breakdowns, while the Range Rover, “the world’s most unreliable car,” is the most reliable.  As for the challenge, it remains gripping right to the end.  It could have been anyone’s race.

In the end, I think Jeremy Clarkson said it best:

“It is incredible to think that these cheap cars, bought unseen on the internet, had crossed the Amazon rainforest. They’d scaled the most dangerous road in the world, and they’d still been working when their drivers had broken down in the Andes.”

5/5 stars

GALLERY REDUX: ZZ Top – Eliminator Monogram model kit

This time last year, I dug up my old 1933 Ford ZZ Top deco “Eliminator” Monogram model kit.  I would have assembled this when I was 13 or 14 years old.  It’s been collecting dust for a long time, but I posted some pics with a crappy Nokia cell phone anyway, just because it was a cool find.

This year, I took some new pics, with my new BlackBerry Z10!  I also took the liberty of cleaning it (as much as I dared to).  In the process I snapped off one headlight (an easy fix) and detached part of the body from the chassis, a trickier fix.  Unfortunately some of the chrome pieces did not age too well and show a lot of chrome wear, (on the headlights).

Regardless, the pictures are pretty.  Enjoy.