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Radioland Blues

Driving across the country? Make sure you’ve got your own tunes.

by Paul Gerald

Mile 1, out of 2,515 from Oregon to Memphis, solo, for the holidays: Much excitement.

Mile 2: Pop in that certain CD, been waiting to hear it at just this moment.

Mile 3: Realize my CD player doesn’t work. Curse wildly. Count tapes; they are less than 20. Contemplate 2,512 miles of radio.

Mile 90: Beyond range of hometown FM stations, switch to AM and find out that crop circles have increased dramatically and are moving north into Alaska. “The only question here, ladies and gentlemen, is why isn’t our government responding? Or are they ... Involved?”

Mile 105: A talk show host declares that Tiger Woods is “so 1997” and shouldn’t even be talked about anymore. Come to realize this show is from Los Angeles; I am approximately 800 miles from Los Angeles. Later in trip, while suffering through snow-covered Rocky Mountains, will hear a station from Dallas (700 miles away) that sounds as clear as FM 100 in Midtown.

Mile 147: Catch the postgame show of a Seattle Seahawks broadcast. In 30 minutes, the word “football” is uttered at least 100 times. “This is a football game that this football team should have won, but they’re just not playing good football right now.” Wonder how the Seahawks are at field hockey.

Mile 339: Something we can all copy from small-town radio: Trade-io, sometimes known as Swap Shop or Broadcast Bartering. Somebody has kittens to give away, somebody else is selling a treadmill, somebody else is looking for a new combine. …

Mile 451: Slogan of a classic country station: “It’s every redneck’s dream come true!” Country, incidentally, rules radio. Its only competitors are the religions of sports and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Mile 515: First encounter with Rush Limbaugh.

Mile 517: First offensive remark by Rush Limbaugh.

Mile 587: Find an all-swing station in southern Idaho. AM rules!

Mile 695: Encounter an advice show whose host ridicules and abuses her callers and assumes that all gay men are pedophiles. Find out this mean-spirited, homophobic wench is none other than Dr. Laura.

Mile 730: Somebody on a Utah station is selling something called a Model D, which apparently cures arthritis, eczema, headaches, and impotency.

Mile 861: First encounter with Paul Harvey. One of the great things about long-distance driving is getting to hear Paul Harvey about 14 times a day. One of the bad things is being within range of Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura for about seven hours per day.

Mile 990: There’s an all-Disney radio station. Kids’ talk show host sounds like Joan Rivers on cocaine. Quickly avoided.

Mile 1,050: In western Colorado, first encounter with farm radio and crop prices. Beans took off like a rocket today!

Mile 1,130: More from farm radio: After the local weather report, they come back with a farm weather report. Strikingly similar.

Mile 1,290: After hours of listening to Limbaugh and Laura (chalk it up to the fascination factor), I’ve decided if I were an alien and heard AM radio, I would use my deathray to kill all liberals. I think I can distill the problem thusly: Liberals, all of whom drive SUVs and have cell phones, want homosexuals, paid by “the marriage penalty tax” and by the selling of secret technology to the Red Chinese, to teach children how to have gay orgies and then go out and force all American businesses out of existence, thereby destroying the very fabric of Western society.

Mile 1,400: You know you’re in Kansas when you hear a contest with the tag line, “If you’re a corn farmer, you could be our next winner!”

Mile 1,439: A quick trip to FM yields a thrasher-punk station. It’s coming from Colby, Kansas (population 5,396), and calls itself “the only real rock station in Western Kansas.” It fits the surroundings like bluegrass would fit Gary, Indiana.

Mile 1,560: KFRM — “Full Time Farm Radio” — announces that a grower in eastern Iowa has won this year’s “Corn Super Bowl” with a yield of 394 bushels per acre!

Mile 1,805: I’ve crossed into Oklahoma, and I now have Jesus on 11 stations and G. Gordon Liddy on four. Increase speed.

Mile 1,807: Liddy’s guest is an author who has “proven” that Robert Kennedy personally supervised the assassination of Marilyn Monroe ... by barbiturate enema.

Mile 1,940: A sports talk show guy says what Oklahoma State’s football program needs is “some of those cordless headsets for the coaches. Man, those are cool!”

Mile 2,050: Having now driven through or near Portland, Boise, Salt Lake City, Denver, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Little Rock, I have got the FM scene down. In every city there’s the NPR/Classical station, at the left end of the dial, down by the jazz station. Elsewhere, you’ve got two or three country stations (Reba McIntyre, not Hank Williams, who lives on AM); a couple of classic rock stations (the Doors and Led Zeppelin); a couple of “good time oldies” stations (Motown and the Rascals); a “best mix of the ’80s, ’90s, and today” station (three decades of crap); a Top 40 station (Counting Crows); a couple of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ stations (seven of them in Oklahoma City); a Latino station (heavy on the accordion); and, even in lilywhite Utah, a couple of “Urban Contemporary”/“Jam” stations.

Mile 2,051: Switch back to AM, for good.

Mile 2,105: This from Rush Limbaugh, who appears to believe it: “Before seven years ago, Americans never had to worry about terrorism. It’s all because Bill Clinton has sent our army around the world to meddle in the affairs of other nations.” Apparently no other president ever did this, which will be news to the people of Iraq, Panama, the Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam. …

Mile 2,217: You know you’re in Arkansas when you hear, “Now, ah caint divulge mah sources, but I hyear that kee-id down in Malvern’s gawn sahn wit tha Hawgs.”

Mile 2,219: Santa Claus is a guest on a Fort Smith talk show. The first “youngster” to call in says what he wants for Christmas is “a chick with big jugs.” Decent comeback from Santa: “Well, I suppose one with brains and a personality would be too much for you to handle, ho ho ho.”

Mile 2,230: If I were an alien listening to sports radio, I would use my deathray to kill all soccer players and female athletes. And liberals, who are apparently responsible for today’s whining, pampered, overpaid athletes.

Mile 2,235: Santa is now taking a beating from the Baptists. “Santa, what I want to know is, are you jolly and happy because so many people are out there shopping, or because it’s the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”

Mile 2,450: Get within range of Memphis radio.

Mile 2,451: Turn the damn thing off.

You can e-mail Paul Gerald at

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