penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Soundtrack for a Road Trip

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It’s summer time right now.  Summer means vacation, and vacation means travelling.

I live in a Northern country.  This means that there are huge gaps in distance between here and there – whether “there” means another city, campsite or cottage.  In order to get “there” you need to climb into a car and drive for long periods of the time down highways or country roads.  It may take us a couple of hours or even (when we are being really ambitious) a couple of days.

Added to this is the fact that my husband, my children and I are all afflicted by motion sickness (only my youngest seems to have been miraculously spared.  Leading me to continue to be suspicious that he is somehow the mailman’s child.  But I digress…)  Because of this curse of car sickness, I can’t read a book, the children can’t play with toys, nor we can watch those in-car movies I see so many families depend on to get from one place to another.

We have been forced to be more inventive.

There are quite a few games we play in the car that help the scenery pass a bit more quickly.  You have probably heard of a few.  Eye spy was tricky when the kids were younger – especially once we realized that one of our sons was colour blind.  We tend to simply play “Do you see?” and simply pointing things out to one another.  Now that the children are a bit older we can play the alphabet game – where the children find signs or license plates with particular letters.  Finding an X or a Z can be challenging when going through farms or forest.    We count cows and horses (although we haven’t yet added in the part where cemeteries kill them all and force you to start your count again).

When the games become tiresome and the bickering starts (“Mom, he’s kicking my seat!”), we often turn to books on CD.  A planned vacation usually means a trip to the library to rifle through their collection of audio books.  Their number one pick tends to be Magic Tree House as read by the author.

But most frequently, the children want to hear music.  We are lucky in that they don’t ask for anything too drecky but it is still a challenge to have tunes in the car that will fit the sensibilities of five people.  My husband and I also want to expose them to a soundtrack that is a little different from the regular children’s fare.

This past weekend, while out on the road, I was struck by the CDs that tend to stay in the car and go on heavy rotation when we are travelling.  Canadian content is king.  Here are a few that we can agree on as a family:

–  Snacktime by the Barenaked Ladies.  Released prior to Stephen Page leaving the band, this has to be the ultimate winner with the kids.  The lyrics are quirky and humorous – without being childish – covering a range of topics from geese flying to ninjas in the bedroom, childhood blues to hand me down clothes.  Each song follows its own style genre from surf punk to call-and-answer.  We are going to have to buy a new copy soon though as this one has become so well loved it’s skipping.

–  Gordon, also by the Barenaked Ladies.  Okay, maybe it’s not fair to name TWO from the same band, but this one was intended for adults with a kid frame of mind.  This was an early album from BNL but it has many of the same qualities of Snacktime – fun, singable lyrics with surprisingly different and complex melodies.

–  Music Inspired by the Group of Seven by the Rheostatics.  My husband is a big fan of the Rheos.  Me, not so much.  But I remember the first time I heard this album, travelling down the highway at night.  The music blended with the dark scenery and the stars overhead.  I still love how the music evokes the image of a ship crossing the ocean or a train crossing the country.  The kids often become quiet when we put it on and sometimes fall asleep – always a blessing when travelling.

–  Night Train and Speechless both by Bruce Cockburn.  Two other quiet albums for the kids to fall asleep to and for Mom and Dad to enjoy.  The first is full of songs with wonderful lyrics and meaning. The second highlights the masterful guitar work of Cockburn.

–  Raffi.  And I mean old-school Raffi like the LPs my mom used to borrow out of the library.  Our favourite is Singable Songs for the Very Young  –  the title says it all.

–  Casino by Blue Rodeo. An early album by Blue Rodeo it has a bluesy rock-a-billy feel that the kids enjoy. And it reminds me of being young again.

–   Contact from the Underworld of Redboy by Robbie Robertson.   Hypnotic dance mixed with lyrics inspired by Robertson’s First Nations background.  One of my preferred options, although admittedly the kids usually start clamouring for something else when I put it on.

–   Hey Buster.  We have seen these guys live a couple of times now and the kids love to sing along with them.  They have two albums under their belts now and they just keep getting better.  Rollicking rock-a-billy with kid-pleasing lyrics about lice and, well, going to the bathroom (hey, know your audience).

–  We also have mixed CDs that friends and my husband have lovingly compiled to encourage the kids to listen to something different.  Hidden among the Glee covers are K’naan, Great Big Sea and the McGarrigles.  While he hails from the USA, we also love Michael Franti and Spearhead and have a couple of his songs mixed in too. It’s impossible not to love such infectious music.

There are lots of others missing from this list of hits, but it does give us a couple of hours of sound track for traversing a big country.

What is it that helps you to get from here to there?

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Written by pennyinacastle

July 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm

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