Dr. Mark Tiger Edmonds
A Tale of Just Passin' Through
by: Mark K. Tiger Edmonds
do not redistribute, this small intro is posted only for your reading
enjoyment on drmarktigeredmonds.com
Continued from Chapter 3: Philosophy, Methodology, Zen,
Deconstructionism, Crossing the Borderline, The Perfect Ride, and
Chapter 4: Roadsongs
While I'm on the topic of that tape, I need to address the issue of music. That was another clever transition. This time to something about the
roadsongs. Most longriders I've talked to hear them. Different roads have different songs. The road from Steamboat Springs through Rocky Mountain
National Park and on into Estes Park sounds different than the road into Big Bend down along the borderline. Sounds different in the Rocky Mountain
Park than it does a little while down the road in the Big Thompson Canyon. Through the park, it sounds like real fast gypsy fiddles and tamborines.
Later, going through that canyon, the road has a song that sounds like white girl gospel wailers. Down along the Rio Grande, between Presidio and
Terlingua, it sounds like slow guitars and castanets and trumpets. A corida beat. Might be a deguila. Turns into a real slow Texas fandango when you
make the turn north.
The music in the movie Easy Rider came pretty close to getting it right a couple times. And if you try to tell someone who doesn't ride about his, they
just sort of look at you with that Pity the Poor Demented Old Burnout look, and nod and nervously smile. Burned out, but still smoking. Hah! Shows
what they know. Better to burn out than to fade away. Neil Young said that. I think he believes it too. Then, other times people try to excuse
themselves and leave the room. Sometimes they try to tell you it's the wind, or the air in your helmet, or the tires on the concrete or asphalt, or the
drug and alchohol damage.
But it ain't. It's the road singing to you, telling you its song. Some roads, long ones, have different songs. The Blue Ridge sounds a lot different up
north at Skyline Drive than it does down south by Cherokee. It's a different road, a different kind of road at one end than the other. The northern end is a
lot easier than the bottom end. Different song. Maybe just a different version of the same song. There are steel guitars and banjos on the south end of
the Ridge, flat top guitars and lots of fiddles at the top. Sounds like the kind of music Doc Watson plays. And you can move over west one valley and
the song is different. One of them has a road that sings a song about how the coal mines are dark as a dungeon. The Snake River Canyon sounds like
a huge organ in a huge cathedral.
The Trace sings the same song to you from one end to the other. It's a waltz. That ride around Lake Superior sounds a lot like "The Wreck of the
Edmond Fitzgerald." The Going to the Sun Highway sounds like the music in a Bible movie. The road out across the water down into the Florida Keys
sings a kind of Reggae Cowboy song. U.S. 2 up in Washington and Montana sings a song a lot like "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Lots of harmonicas in
it. Turns into a kind of slow schottische across Minnesota and Michigan. The River Road down along the Mississippi, south of Memphis, sounds like
the blues, all dobros, and steel guitars tuned in open D. The McClure Pass Detour was a damn dirge.
And it's a road in West Virginia, runs along the Tug Fork, sounds more like "Amazing Grace" than anything else I ever heard. I got on a long road
through Philadelphia one time. Damn thing sounded like a Salvation Army Band playing on the sidewalk at Christmas. Snowflakes and French horns
and tamborines whacking out "Silent Night," even though it wasn't. Between Austin and Abilene, the road sings you a slow polka with a pretty heavy
oompah beat to it. It's a different song than the oompah beat you hear in Pennsylvania, up around Lancaster and the Susquehanna. And you get to
hear a song like "Home on the Range" between Rawlin and Lander, Wyoming. Where the deer and the antelope play.
The road up the California coastline sings a different song than any east coast highway. That road up the California shore sounds like Dick Dale Surfer
Guitar music. The Atlantic roads have different songs. Up north in New England you get sea shanties. The New Jersey shore sounds like Bruce the
Boss music. Some of the early stuff. The Carolina Coastlines are pretty Rock and Roll. Keeps on like that through coastal Georgia and down past
Daytona too. Until you get to South Florida where U.S. 1 begins to sound like some Cuban salsa music.
Down around Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, out along the Pecos River, you can hear the road singing about Lincoln County and Armageddon. Down in the
Cheat Mountains, along the Shavers Fork, one of the headwaters of the Monongohela, the road plays reels and jigs. The bridge out across Lake
Ponchartrain is a jazz highway. Dixieland. U.S. Highway 64 runs sideways across most of Tennessee. It sounds like The Band. There is a road in
Idaho sounds just like that old Steppenwolf music. Prettiest sounding road I ever rode was the one inland from Eureka, California, along the Trinity
River. Sounded like Ry Cooder. I damn near cried when I got to the end of that road. I would have turned around and rode it back to the coast, but that
was the trip east after I had busted my shoulder on Red Mountain, and I was still in a sling and sort of a slow hurry.
Somewhere across south Kansas, I found a road that sang a kind of duet with the wind there.
There's a road down along the Ohio River, I believe it's Highway 7, sings a song with calliopes and steamboat whistles. Rides along rivers are almost
always real pretty rides. And you get to hear some fine roadsongs. The Yockanookany River, or rather the road that runs along it, which is Highway 12,
around McCool, Mississippi sounds like "Dixie." Real slow. Riding beside the Columbia, it sounds like a march, or maybe a processional. Out along
the St. Lawrence you get to hear roadsongs about London and other seaport towns.
There is a road down in south Louisiana, down where the filmed the final scene of Easy Rider, where you hear fiddles and accordions playing "Julie
Blon." The Million Dollar Highway is all bluegrass music. Mandolins mostly. The ride around the Cape Breton Highlands is bagpipes and a few snare
drums. There's a ride up the east side of the Bay of Fundy sounds a whole lot like the song you hear riding from Grand Chenier up through Evangeline
and on to Mamou out along Bayou Nezpique. A lament. Way down in southern California, and through most of south Arizona, too, you get a song that
sounds a lot like Woody Guthrie singing about deportees and the Los Gatos airport. There is a piece of road I know that used to be part of the Trail of
Tears. You can hear drums and hawkbells if you listen right. Most interstate expressways are disco music, some are elevator music.
I've even had a couple passengers admit to me that they heard the roadsongs. But they were all women who were in love with me and willing to believe
damn near anything I told them. Years ago, when me and ol' Cousin Doc first got together with him playing music behind my poems, he asked me
what kind of music went with which part of the poem. So I told him about the roadsongs. He came up with a piece he calls "Tiger's Last Ride." Those
of you who have heard the tape know that Ernie, like Bill Dudley, is a damn genius. He got it real right.
Dr. Mark Tiger Edmonds
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