To many, a road trip is all about sound. To that end, road trip soundtracks are what this article is all about. Music, audiobooks even talk or news radio can be your soundtrack if it’s delivered by satellite. The focus here, is on digitally delivered road trip soundtracks of all kinds. You’ll soon find out that’s a very broad focus. Not like just a generation ago with a choice of 8-tracks, cassettes or broadcast FM or AM radio. Today your road trip soundtrack is a real cornucopia. That ever full horn of plenty that once you push the on button it never quits or fades until you reach your destination.
With the advent of iPod, Zune and myriad other mp3 devices that will plug right into your music player and satellite radio that does the same, there is no reason one cannot circle the country and never be without your own special road trip soundtrack accompanying you. What’s even better is that no obstacle can obscure it’s signal.
Cross the Chesapeake Bridge/Tunnel trying to listen to radio or drive across southwest Texas sometime for a definitive example. But I’m sure you’ve had your own frustrating experiences wherever you travel. Tape and CD players go some way to alleviate that problem but an iPod or other device loaded up with mp3’s is the ultimate solution these days.
You’ll need a car stereo optimized for using an mp3 music player with at least an auxiliary input on the front panel or one with audio inputs you can plug your iPod right into. Stay away from FM transmitters, they’re cheap and easy but the sound is horrid and they get interference from FM radio stations. Take my word for it, those things suck like a V8 powered vacuum cleaner. If you don’t want to change your music player spend the extra and have a harness installed that will plug into the headphone jack of your mp3 device or into the dock connection of an iPod.
Your own road trip soundtrack can be anything you wish it to be; music that you play in a structured playlist or just a group of road trip songs that you set your mp3 player to shuffle through. Either way, once you have loaded up your iPod for example, it’s simply a click to change an easily found setting.
These days I find myself listening mostly to audiobooks that no longer are restricted to CD’s or tape but can be downloaded to music players such as iPod and Zune. To me there is nothing like a heart pounding tale being read to keep me attentive to the end and burning the miles as I listen. I’ve discovered, since I mostly travel alone, that the human voice reading a really good tale is the best sort of companion. One whom I don’t have to talk to and who totally ignores my occasional outburst if I do!
Finding your road trip songs is easy enough these days. There are many online sites to purchase songs and complete albums. The one I find myself at mostly is the iTunes store because it works so seamlessly with my iPods and is so user friendly to negotiate. For audiobooks I’ve found Audible to be my favorite. Of course there are still some file sharing sources but if you use a PC the spectre of malicious viral parasites attached to music files looms large. Though Mac users don’t see nearly the trouble PC’s users do there is an up tick in the problem being seen especially with new Macs. My advice to those new to downloading music is to stick to paid sites. It can’t hurt your karma affording the artists the respect much less the payment they’re due for their works.
Finally, there is satellite radio. With over a hundred channels and many of those genre specific shows it’s almost as customizable as making your own road trip soundtrack. There can be fade from obstacles to the line of sight to a satellite but distance itself means not a thing. There is a monthly charge to subscribe or you can pay an annual rate to save some cash. All in all not a bad way to go. No more searching for your favorite station when it’s signal fades to oblivion.
I listen to National Public Radio shows fairly regularly and I find Sirius satellite radio incredibly more easy than how I used to do it, with saved stations on as many presets as I could find. It’s not expensive to get a basic system to plug into your music player, but there again, run it directly into your auxiliary input at least. There are satellite ready players as well.
If you don’t already do your own road trip soundtrack, take up the practice. It’s easily done, an easy little hobby to take up and you get a nice sense of self satisfaction from it too. In my case it’s part of the tool box of things I need to perform my chosen profession with, just like a road map, gps on my laptop or a flashlight… I Don’t leave home without it!