Guest Column: Sweet Sounds of the Road

by Mary Bryant*

I’ll admit it. I’m a road lizard, a highway junkie, a white line freak on asphalt though I’ve been known to explore dirt roads leading to nowhere. 

I love the road, I love driving or riding but mostly sitting behind the steering wheel. I love the sights, the sounds, the smells and the feel of the wind riding with the windows open.  I love the flavor and the color of the different pieces of the patchwork quilt that make up the intoxicating terra firma. I can’t get enough of it.

Someone asked me once what my favorite sound was – it didn’t require much thought for me to reply, “the sound of the tires crossing the expansion joints on the highways that I travel.

That the journey is as important and as pleasurable as the destination to me is a no-brainer.  The whir of the tires and the hiss of the wind are music to my ears.  When I am fortunate enough to find a mild thunderstorm, or hear rain tapping on the roof of the car, it just adds depth to the symphony.

I realized on my most recent trip how important those sounds are to me.  I decided to try books on tape (or rather CD) for the first time. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were nothing more than an unwelcome distraction.  I quickly extracted them from the CD player.

One of the reasons that I love car travel alone is to be able to take memories of recent events and roll them around in my mind like a fine wine.  Refining details of sweet conversations I’ve had with my children or grandchildren or lovers. I relish reliving previous trips taken with family when I was a child, or thinking of drives across country with my sisters.  These memories become better with time.

Or, listening to favorite music – singing out loud like I’ve never had the nerve to do with an audience.  Belting out “Crazy” with Patsy Cline, or “L. A. Freeways” with Guy Clark, or “Gain Control” with Rodney Crowell or “Night Life” or “Good Hearted Woman” with Willie Nelson.  I just know if any of them could hear me they would have to wonder why they haven’t included me in their bands. Or, solving problems that I can’t seem to deal with in the reality of the distractions of work or the routine of daily life.

There is a certain clarity that comes with guiding a car gently between the lines of the road – finding a temporary new zone to occupy.  Add a few steep curves and hills – feeling the centrifugal pull and hearing the tires squeal just a bit or engaging the passing gear for maximum speed, all make driving a real joy!  Did I fail to mention that I also like speed?

The sounds of the road are sweet indeed.

*A romantic traveler