Saturday Jams: Drivin’ Up a Storm!

A while back, Rob was bitten; not by a radioactive spider but by an idea to post a weekly article about a few songs that he really likes. There are so many possibilities that the series could go on forever, and so Saturday Jams was born.

This week I want to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately: cars. Not just cars, but driving. Not just driving, but the drive to drive, if you can dig that. We as Americans are a culture of driving, that’s no secret. Except for some pockets of America where people are more often encouraged to ride their bicycles or walk to work, cars are a big deal and they represent big money to America. But why?

Honestly, I think it’s because we just love to drive. I’ve been in love with driving since I first became comfortable behind the wheel. And I can tell some stories, boy! I was once nearly ticketed for driving a 1988 Ford Escort so fast that the highway patrolman in Findlay, Ohio told me that he wouldn’t have caught up to me if I hadn’t pulled into a rest stop. I was coming out of the bathroom when I saw him hovering around my car like a fly, and I come up all nonchalant; I told him I had to go so bad and I didn’t want to pee my pants or pull it out by the side of the road and he let me off with a warning. But that was the only time they let me go scot-free in Findlay.


I was ticketed in Sterling Heights, Michigan for careless driving once. Why? Because I’ve got skills; and when you use them to gain an advantage on the road, you expose yourself to the enforcement of the law, plain and simple. Accelerate, merge; accelerate, merge – do that like five times in a row and they think you’re going to kill somebody, I suppose.

Yeah, I love to drive and chances are, you do too. If you ever experienced that moment you looked at the speedometer and you noticed that you were going 60 in a 40-mile-an-hour zone, you know what I mean. It’s not always a rush, but when you’re feeling fine and the road is calling you, how can you not feel it? I’ve discovered lately that it’s not just cars though; since starting my current job a little over a year ago, I’ve gotten handy with a sit-down forklift. More recently, due to a tricky situation with parts handlers, I’ve gotten handy with a reach truck as well, and boy those things are cool.

A brand-new Raymond narrow-aisle reach truck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A sit-down forklift (Photo credit: OZinOH)

Ford Tractor
Ford Tractor (Photo credit: dave_7)

Last night, my wife and I went out to have dinner with the in-laws at her brother’s house. My brother in-law David owns a fairly large-sized piece outside of Mandan and has been tearing up some ground to prepare for a 40-  by 80-foot pole barn, and so last night he showed me his old Ford tractor and even let me run it, and let me run the disc attachment over the area he was working. What a neat thing it is to drive something like that! That’s the first stick-shift I’ve ever driven successfully.

Now I’m wondering if I can learn how to drive a motorcycle. It’s calling me. This is what it must be like when a person learns to pilot a jet, a helicopter, or anything else that can be piloted or driven. I want to learn to drive a Bobcat skid-steer loader. I’d love to drive a tank. Anything. It’s like a fever that’s starting to take hold of my mind. This is driving, the freedom that America has co-opted to keep its people believing in the principles upon which the country was founded (more or less.)

The wife and I are driving out to Minot today to run an errand, and so I have to get this show on the road; to be sure, this not-so-subtle soliloquy is what drives the theme of today’s Saturday Jams.

First of all, I have to get this out of my head and into yours. I got this stuck in there a few days ago and it’s been rolling around ever since:

Now that we’ve got that one out of the way, I’d like to show you a group I just discovered while finding songs for this post: The Mona Lisa Twins. I was looking for an original video of this song, but I was so impressed by the sweet fidelity of their live version that for most of it I forgot that it was two ladies and not Lennon and McCartney singing this:

I’m going to have to check out more of their stuff pretty soon.

Here’s one I couldn’t possibly skip. I thought this was a Junior Brown Jam, but it turns out it was originally by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, from the late 1960’s. This video, however, is a group called Asleep at the Wheel, and they do a great rendition of Hot Rod Lincoln:

Okay, and let’s talk about this. This is why I love videos from the 1980’s. They loved to tell a story, and they were often interesting or cool or just plain hilarious. I think this video falls into all three categories. I used to think of Sammy Hagar as the guy everyone points to when they talk about Van Halen‘s change from a fun rock band to a slick Hollywood sell-out. This video does not look like that to me, it looks like the reason Hagar got the opportunity to replace David Lee Roth. But just enjoy it, because the 1980’s videos are irreplaceable, though as we will see in a few minutes, the impetus for storytelling through the medium of music videos is far from dead.

Last and certainly not least, allow me to deliver on that promise I just gave you. This is Dashboard by Modest Mouse. It’s hard for me to understand the lyrics on the first listen but when I saw the video I knew I would have to share it. The imagery, and the story it feeds to the imagination – especially when you can’t understand the lyrics – are inspired. Stuff like this makes me want to write all the more.

So that’s it, and I hope you didn’t feel like I went too long this week. Five videos instead of three, holy cow! If you’re driving this weekend, enjoy it responsibly and make it there alive, but let yourself feel a little bit of that spirit it conjures up when you’re enjoying the freedom of the road.


  1. I haven’t thought about that Sammy Hagar song in years. We just drove an hour and a half one way to get BBQ. And MTM is a vegetarian.

    Are there any Mandans left in Mandan?

    • According to my wife, there’s one last Mandan family in Mandan that she went to school with, their grandmother was the last native speaker of the language. Most Native Americans out of this area are Lakota Sioux.

      My thoughts on this are that this is an unfortunate state of affairs. Languages die every day, and I was just hearing something on NPR today on the way back (now that trip was an adventure I’ll be blogging about) about how having multiple languages can be an advantage, and now the more I think about it the more I’m losing it. . . darn. I’ll have to find the article.

      On the other hand, I have to give you props, because I would have assumed you would have easy access to BBQ in the South. But then again, we’re in the state capital and we have to drive practically to the canadian border to get Thai food. Ha!

      Oh and one more funny thing. When we got back we went to do our weekly grocery shopping, and that Sammy Hagar song came on, and it made me smile because I thought of him getting in that cop’s face and screaming “I can’t drive 55!”

      Oh yeah, the NPR thing . . . they were talking about how thinking in a different language when making important decisions decreased the level of cognitive noise involved because of the different connotations and associations involved with the native language. A research thing. Still very interesting. I make it sound weird, I think.

      • You might like the book “The Future of the Past” by Alexander Stille. He devotes a couple of chapters to the dying out of languages, but the whole book is a study of whether we destroy something when we try to learn about it.

        I’d read in some of my novel research that the last Mandan died in 1971. I’m glad to hear that maybe a few are still alive. (No, my book isn’t set near you, but it does have Meriwether Lewis as a main character, and the Mandan were very helpful to him and Clark.)

        We have plenty of BBQ places in Charleston, but the one in Hemingway SC is the best. Worth the drive. It is a glorious dump.

        • Aren’t the best restaurants like that, though? I remember Hambo’s Coney Island in my home town of Ferndale Michigan before it burnt down and they rebuilt it. The same apt description applies – I would have called it a glorious hole-in-the-wall, but I’m totally feeling you.

          In your research have you run across anything by Clay Jenkinson? He’s supposed to be the big Thomas Jefferson scholar of North America and actually wrote a book about Meriwether Lewis. I have yet to read it but from what I have heard it’s quite good. And I totally added that book you mentioned to my wish list because I’m a historical-linguistic-nonfiction junkie.

          • Yes. I read a book that was written collaboratively by several historians and an attorney, and Clay Jenkinson wrote the introduction. This book was “By His Own Hand? The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis”. Historians basically argue the suicide theory and the murder theory, and an attorney sums everything up like he’s arguing for a jury. It really changed my perspective on Lewis’s death. (And now, I think I sound like a geek. Most people, when I say I’ve written a novel about Meriwether Lewis, say “Who??”) Anyway, if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s a slim book. I read it in a couple of hours.

            • I’ve heard Jenkinson talk about that book before too, on his podcast. It’s interesting that they still don’t have a solid fix on whether it was murder or suicide. I might have to read that book, I find myself engrossed by historical nonfiction these days.

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