Mix Tape Road Trip
- No Time For Denny’s -
Why? That’s the question we heard from almost everyone we told our plan to. Why would you waste your time with something so stupid? Why would you travel across the country and not leave your car? Why are you doing this?
The trip was the fruition of an idea that had been brewing for about a year. During a drive to Montreal in the summer of 2001, Dan came up with the absurd/ brilliant plan to travel across the country listening to every mix we’ve ever made for each other, in order.
The initial idea was to drive west listening to the mixes Jeremy made for Dan and when we reached the end of the last tape we would turn the car around and head back home while burning through all the mixes Dan made for Jeremy. It was exactly the kind of extremely silly scheme that Jeremy always fell for immediately. The only problem was whether or not Jeremy would be able to get enough time off work to take such a journey. Dan, however, could not be swayed from the idea even going so far as to claim, "I’ll take the trip even if you can’t go." Oh, really. That kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? (Dan interjects: I have no memory of making that threat, but it does sound like something I would say.)
Anyhow, Jeremy figured out he could go for 10 days around July 4, 2002 so now the only question was where to go? Over the course of the year, the plan changed many times from its initial idea to the possibility of taking the 10 days to drive to San Francisco and then flying back once we finished all the mixes to what became the actual trip: we would plan a cross country journey taking us to Las Vegas and back, driving and listening the whole way. But what rental car company would agree to such a long journey? As it turns out, very few. Most promised unlimited miles but only if we stayed within the northeastern states. That was not going to cut it. Others had hidden fees if we went over a certain amount of miles per day. Fuck that noise. Only Budget would allow us to drive as far as we wanted to with no extra charges or dollars per mile.
When we called to reserve our car we were told that they could not promise us a car with a tape player. Oh no? That was the whole point of the trip. We needed a tape player. Over 90% of the mixes were tapes so without a tape player we’d be screwed. We would bite down and drive through Texas in July with no air conditioner if necessary but we absolutely had to have a tape player. Since we had no other options, we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
We met at Albany airport, a sort of halfway point between our two towns, found our car which had a tape player thankfully, and loaded it up. At 2:32 p.m. on July 3, we were off.
Day 1 – July 3, 2002
The first part of the trip is marked with giggling and glee from both parties. We’re both in a state of mild shock partly excited for the trip and partly not believing we were actually going through with something so patently ridiculous. But here we were, driving west towards Buffalo, listening to the first of over 60 mixes.
Mix #1 The Culture of Cuteness Has a Dark Side
Maker: Dan Date: 7/02 Begun: 2:41pm Ended: 4:18pm Miles Covered: 100
Albany, NY - The first mix of the trip already has us going out of order but this mix was made especially for the trip and was actually completed just that morning. And what an opener it is. The mix is a document of Dan’s life, month-by-month, since the plans for the trip were first solidified back in 2001. It covers all the highlights: Fears of nuclear attack, marathon Freaks & Geeks viewing, White Stripes vs. The Strokes arguments, karaoke singing, and the three major religious holidays that end the year. A brilliant beginning, helping to stave off the dreadful early tapes, if only for a short while.
Mix #2 Lenin With an ‘I’
Maker: Jeremy Date: 1995 Begun: 4:23pm Ended: 6:09pm Miles Covered: 115
Verona, NY - The earliest mixes we made for each other were from summer 1995. How would these stand the test of time? Jeremy was already bracing myself for some embarrassing moments on his earliest tapes but was unsure when they would rear their ugly heads.
|The reminiscing begins. Jobs as camp counselors. The first Post-Polvo zine. Watching Eraserhead on the Broksonic. What could ruin this wonderful walk down memory lane? A little band called Your Majesty. Ooh.|
The first major stumbling block occurs courtesy of Jeremy’s first mix tape. Oh, how he loved the sub par D.C. rock back then. He still has a soft spot in his heart for the band but objectively he knows that they don’t stand the test of time too well. Thankfully we have Shellac to save us.
We had both at one point owned Shellac’s first cd but had since both sold it and subsequently forgotten about them. Let us just say, Shellac is perfect driving music and helped to wash away all the mucky-muck surrounding them in Jeremy’s first tape.
Mix #3 I Hope You Like Crap
Maker: Dan Date: 1995 Begun: 6:13pm Ended: 8:15pm Miles Covered: 78
Near Leroy, NY - Dan’s very first tape begins with "Hearts in Her Eyes" by the Searchers. This song perfectly sums up Dan’s early mix tapes: lots of sweet 60s jangle and pop bliss. The first song from Jeremy’s first tape is also a good summation of his early tapes, which showcased screaming fits and bashed instruments. He chose to start Lenin With an ‘I’ with Truman’s Water’s "Rations." Over the years, Dan has held onto his love for the gems from his father’s music collection while Jeremy’s plans for owning the entire Truman’s Water catalog were abandoned years ago.
While heading west towards Buffalo, we decided to tempt fate and take a short detour to see the Niagara Falls. The drive took us farther out of the way than we had planned but we couldn’t pass it up even though we were due in Memphis for a Redbirds game at 6pm tomorrow night. Hopefully we would still be able to make it. Pressed for time, we decide against crossing the border and having to explain to the Canadian police why our car is stocked with mix tapes and instead opt to enjoy the waterfall from the American side. We both suppress the insatiable urge to jump in and brave the falls.
Mix #4 Alicia Silverstone’s Shocking Secrets
Maker: Jeremy Date: 1995 Begun: 8:17pm Ended: 9:53pm Miles Covered: 99
Niagara Falls, NY – We pass a tollbooth attendant wearing indie rock orange earplugs and smoking a pipe. Rock On! Jeremy mistakenly thinks a song on the mix tape is by Spatula when in reality it is Polvo. He loses 1 Indie Rock Point. A horrid song erupts from the speakers, prompting Dan to derisively ask, "Who IS this?" Jeremy checks the inlay: Fifth Column. Dan’s face shrivels in disgust as he emits a sound of pure, soul crushing pain. Thankfully, Shellac comes along not too long afterwards and saves us. Once again, Dan turns it up.
Mix #5 Jeremy Paquette = Offspring
Maker: Dan Date: 1995 Begun: 9:55pm Ended: 11:47pm Miles Covered: 100
Jamestown, PA – Oh, the dreaded sophomore slump. We both had all our lives to create the first mix tapes for each other but only mere weeks to make the second. With the heightened industry pressures and increased drug abuse, there was no way the tapes could satisfy the expectations the first mixes created. Both follow-ups were relegated to mere rehashes of better material on the first tapes and at times devolved into self-parody. Thankfully, the subs and Cheez-Its we stopped for help to alleviate the pain of boring SF Seals songs but nothing can prevent the pain caused by an absolutely horrid Throwing Muses track.
Mix #6 Deceased: Pryor, Madelyne
Maker: Jeremy Date: 1995 Begun: 11:49pm Ended: 1:25 pm Miles Covered: 100
Nearing Akron, OH – With this tape, we come across the first mix tape report card. The first what? Upping the nerd quotient by a factor of 8, we decided to write report cards for each other’s tapes, giving each song a letter grade and writing a thought or two about each track. It’s a wonderful waste of time and a perfect way to let the other person know, in writing, that you will stand for no more torture at the hands of Fifth Column. F-
Mix #7 Hey That Guy Has a Meatloaf on His Head
Maker: Dan Date: 1995 Begun: 1:28am Ended: 10:00am Miles Covered: 111
Mt. Gilead, OH – After about 12 hours of driving and listening to mix tapes, we are exhausted and look for a place to sleep. Surprisingly, neither of us are sick of mix tapes yet and are a little displeased to have to stop the trip but do so for fear of driving into a guardrail. It’s hard to get bored because with each mix, we’re wondering what song is coming next and if you come upon a bad tune, as we often did during these early tapes, you know it won’t be long before another forgotten treasure will come along and perk you up. The driving is one of the last things on our minds as we hurtle down the highway, revisiting our musical past.