Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 32

Another destination specific song, this week by Portland's Everclear.  Everclear is actually mostly Art Alexakis who had a life worthy of a Behind the Music episode.  In fact, there was an episode devoted to Everclear.

Art grew up in west L.A. in the projects of Mar Vista, a community just off of Santa Monica and Venice.  He fell into drugs and crime and when his family broke up was shuttled between various family members around the country.  After a near fatal cocaine overdose, Alexakis gave up drugs cold turkey.

At one point, a young Art had a girlfriend who jumped off of the Santa Monica Pier and killed herself.  Depressed, Art tried to to the same thing but visions of his brother changed his mind and he was able to save himself once in the water.

Along with stints in abusive relationships, the suicide attempt inspired Art to write this week's tune, Santa Monica.  Lyrics abound about not wanting to continue in the same downward relationship spiral..."I am still living with your ghost, lonely and dreaming of the West Coast,"  "I don't want to be your fall back crutch anymore," "I don't want to be the bad guy, I don't want to do your sleep walk dance anymore."  The suicide attempt is part of the song's chorus, "we can swim out past the breakers, watch the world die."

So what makes this song about suicide and failed relationships a good travel tune?  First, the rest of the lyrics talk about how we'd like to get away from the bad times by heading to a new place...the west coast in this version: "I just want to feel some sunshine, I just want to find some place to be alone, "  " I just want to see some palm trees, I will try to shake away this disease." 

Second, it's a great song with a building strength that starts off with a lone guitar, slowly adding other instruments throughout until you have a very hard rocker in the end.  The tune is slightly western and a bit punk, probably influenced by Alexakis' days in the cowpunk movement in San Francisco.  It goes with travel very well...makes me want to put on my big black boots and pack an old suitcase and go.

At the bottom is a live version of the song sponsored by Taylor Guitars, who Art endorses with their use.  The actual video of the song is very good and a tight mix but the record label does not allow embedding.  You can see that video here:

Below is the live version from Taylor Guitars.  Enjoy!


Thursday, June 17, 2010


St. Louis is a mid-sized city with a compact, walkable downtown area.  Transit is available to outlying areas.  St. Louis' transit is 100% wheelchair accessible and consists mainly of two types, each listed below:

Metrolink - This is the area's light rail system and it consists of two lines.  The Red Line goes from the Shiloh-Scott station in East St. Louis (Illinois) to the airport.  The Blue Line goes from Fairview Heightss in East St. Louis (Illinois) to Shrewsbury, a southwestern suburb. From Fairview Heights to Forest Park, both lines run parallel, so you could take either line to any station along this mainly downtown stretch.  A good portion of the downtown section is a subway.  Both sports stadiums, Laclede's landing, and downtown are easily accessed by Metrolink.  Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard is a bumpy, 1/2 mile walk from the last station, Shrewsbury, on the Blue Line.  Metrolink System Map

Metrobus - the bus system handles the rest of the area.  Metrobus System Maps

Day passes currently run $8.  Disabled fare for the bus is $1 and a dime more for the Metrolink.

Amtrak has three routes through St. Louis with several trains per day.  The Texas Eagle connects Chicago and San Antonio.  Three times a week, it also goes on from San Antonio to Los Angeles.  Four times a day, the Missouri River Runner goes to and from Kansas City, connecting with cities across the middle of the state.  Their Illinois service connects the city to Chicago, and points between, several times a day.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 31

This week’s Travel Tune touches on a fantasy for some. We’ve talked about heading out on the open road before, with no plans, just to see what comes along but what about if you just keep going? That’s the theme of this week’s song, someone just getting up, leaving, and never coming back.

This particular song’s story is haunting and maybe…inadvertently to be sure…a little creepy.

Fastball is a band out of Austin, Texas. Bassist Tony Scalzo heard the story of Lela and Raymond Howard, an elderly couple who left for a family reunion one day and never showed up. He imagined that they just kept going, on with a new life, leaving everything and everyone behind…just living on the road. It’s a romantic fantasy, but those kinds of things don’t always turn out the way you want.

The song is The Way and it is ALWAYS on our road trip playlist. A ballad about leaving it all behind, it features a slightly Latin flavored guitar and rhythm, while featuring those haunting lyrics…”they left before the sun came up that day…they drank they wine and they got to talking, They now had more important things to say…where were they going without ever knowing the way?”

Haunting lyrics give way to a chorus reflecting everybody’s fantasy at this point…”anyone can see the road that they walk on is paved in gold, it’s always summer, they’ll never get cold, they’ll never get hungry, they’ll never get old and gray…” Warning: the chorus is a serious brain worm and will stay in your head for weeks.

It’s a fun fantasy to listen to with some great guitar licks and wonderful harmonies. So what’s so creepy? Actually, nothing in the song itself. It turns out that after Scalzo wrote and recorded the song, Lela (who had Alzheimer’s) and Raymond (who had recently had brain surgery) were found dead at the bottom of a canyon near their abandoned car. Fantasy rarely squares with real life.

Anyway, it’s a great song and I think you’ll enjoy it and want to add it to your collection. Here’s Fastball with The Way. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 30

A tip for those of you from other lands that are visiting the United States.  If you'd really like to see what we're like, and to get to know us, I can think of no better way to do it in a couple of hours than taking in a ball game.  Baseball is very American and you'll get a big dose of us and our ways when you go to a game.

In those couple of hours you'll see us celebrate, argue, be nice and polite, be profane, drink and eat to excess, and at the end of it all (usually), end up friends and looking forward to the next time.

When we're on the road, sometimes we'll find ourselves in a small town with nothing much to do (Columbia, South Carolina...I'm looking at you).  One thing we can always count on if there's a minor league team nearby is to take in a game.  It's a lot of fun, it gets us out of the room, exercises our passions, and it's cheap!

Since we're in the middle of a big baseball themed trip, this week's Travel Tune is explicitly about this, the joys of watching great minor league baseball.  As the lyrics say, "beer as flat as can be, we like our dogs with mustard and relish.  We've got a great pitcher...what's his name?"  (actually, I like some fizz in my beer - Ed) We may be minor league but at least we're AAA.   Enjoy this week's tune, Alabama's ode to the fun of minor league ball with a video set to scenes from some of the best baseball movies ever...there's nothing like a beer in The Cheap Seats.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 29

The Stig
Photo courtesy Wikimedia
nahtanoj under CC-BY license

Next week we'll be up to 30 (or 31) Travel Tunes here on The World on Wheels, time for y'all to download some of them and make a road playlist or CD (commissions from downloads go into Tim's pocket for a little walking around money, so please download or go to Amazon through that link over to the left should you be so inclined).

This week, we pay homage to one of our favorite TV shows.  This is the best show in Britain, by far, and one of the best shows ever.  We're talking about the Petrolheads of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, Richard Hammond, and...of course...The Stig, in Top Gear

Yes, it's a car show but you don't need to be a car nut to enjoy it.  My wife, who is not into cars at all really, loves the show.  It's a highly entertaining mix of frank car reviews (they will trash a half-million car in a minute if they find something they don't like), adventures (there treks to the North
Pole, across Africa...("Oliver!"), and the very scary trip to Bolivia), and stunts.

Try it, you'll like it very much indeed.  It airs on BBC America, and you can also download many clips on Youtube and at
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Matt523 under CC-BY license

The theme song for the show is a great driving tune, Jessica, by the Allman Brothers Band.  No lyrics, just smooth, guitar based intrumentals that provide a great background for a road trip.  Enjoy!