After spending hours on end driving across the American Midwest and High Plains, and canoeing down the Green River, I’ve had a lot of time to think. As such, I’ve developed several theories supported solely by anecdotal evidence.

Audio is salvation.

I decided to drive back to Princeton in one day last summer. From Chicago to Princeton, it’s about 13 hours. I don’t know why I thought this wouldn’t be a problem, but by about 5 pm it most certainly was. I was sick of the music on the top 40 stations. I was sick of the CDs in my car. I was sick of NPR (GASP!). I stopped for a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza (a legit addiction, I will drive an extra 30 minutes and wait another 15 if it means I can get a cheese Pizza Hut personal pan pizza) and a Coke at a rest stop and considered my options: 1) I could keep driving, or 2) I could check into a hotel. I wanted neither of these. I wanted to snap my finger and be in Princeton, the best old place of all.

So I decided to hit the road and try listening to an audiobook: Bossypants by Tina Fey.

If you have not yet listened to* Bossypants by Tina Fey, stop reading this immediately and listen to it. It is the best thing you will listen to IN THIS DECADE (because I assume Tina will write another audiobook next decade and that will be the best thing you listen to in the NEXT DECADE, otherwise I would say Bossypants is the best thing you will listen to in this century).

I was no longer tired and even made it to Princeton rejuvenated**.

This has all been preamble to say I think audio has the power to SAVE LIVES. There’s an expression in Country Music: “Jesus, take the wheel.” If Jesus is acting through Tina Fey in this instance, then yes.

Then it should also be known that Jesus acts through Lil’ Jon.

As I was driving through Wyoming, returning to Colorado after my stint at the Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower in Ashley National Forest, I could see a wall of darkness building up below omnious clouds on the horizon. In the distance, lightning was striking ground. This region of Wyoming is cattle country, and I thought: “LOL I wonder if cows ever get struck by lightning while their out on the High Plains grazing…”

The cow gods decided to curse me for this thought. Within minutes, SHEETS of water were pouring over my windshield. A few times, I felt the car hydroplaning on these same sheets that had made their way under my tires. I was on I-80, which has a speed limit of 80 mph in some sections, but I had slowed down to near 40. I did not know what to do: should I pull over? Should I keep going? Seeing things was nearly impossible. I could see the lights of cars, but no clear definition. I don’t think I could’ve told a truck from a sedan.

For a moment, I considered pulling over and putting on my caution lights. I was too terrified that if I kept driving, I would crash into another car.

“Turn Down for What?” came on the radio and I realized it was a sign from DJ Snake ft. Lil’ Jon that I COULD NOT PULL OVER LEST I BE CRASHED INTO. Would Lil’ Jon have turned down for a torrential downpour? I think not. So I kept driving and by the end of the song, the hurricane force rain had subsided.

Car audio has saved my life TWO TIMES now.

*Even if you’ve read the book Bossypants, go listen to the audiobook because Tina reads it and obviously Tina is hilarious.

**Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it was the Pizza Hut personal pan pizza that rejuvenated me. But either way, Bossypants is still great.***

***I think Pizza Hut and Tina Fey are two obsessions I have that became obvious this summer. Like I said, I would wait minutes for a personal pan pizza instead of getting a fast food option at rest stops. And while traveling down the Green River, I found out that my former AP US History teacher probably conversed with Tina Fey on an almost DAILY BASIS when Tina was working at the McGraw YMCA in Evanston. After learning of this news I: 1) began semi-hyperventilating, 2) rocked back and forth, and 3) berated her for not being more weird so that she could’ve ended up in Tina Fey’s book Bossypants (which you should read).

 

An all-Nirvana a cappella group would be the greatest thing to originate on this planet since Nirvana itself.

THINK ABOUT IT. JUST THINK ABOUT IT. I can guess what you’re thinking: but isn’t Nirvana too heavy for a cappella? NO. I encourage you to check out With the Lights Out Box Set, which includes many demo acoustic versions of their songs. These versions are awesome, so why would a cappella be too difficult? If you’re interested in this, get in touch. I can’t sing, but I can listen to people sing so maybe that’s all it takes to be a producer?

 

In another life, I think I could’ve been a rapper.

Although I can’t sing, I think I have a knack for lyric creation. So… rapper. This summer I spent seven days canoeing down the Green River with a group of high schoolers from my alma mater New Trier. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever led, partly because the participants were really great. I think one of the hardest things about this type of canoe trip, besides pooping in a steel can, is the hours on end spent under the hot sun paddling. Even with an excellent canoe mate, the hours can drag on. And during these hours, I found myself singing songs, most of which already exist, but some I created with the help of my canoe mate. Although they’re pretty simple, the songs were written in, like, less than five minutes each. For your entertainment, the lyrics:

 

“Gotta Keep Paddlin’” by Erisa and Anna

Just keep paddlin’

Paddlin’ along

Down the Green River

Singing this song

Just keep paddlin’

Paddlin’ along

Down the Green River

Singing this song

Gotta keep paddlin’

Gotta keep movin’

The winds of the canyon*

Got me losing

My arms are tired

Of this boating,

But I don’t want to be

Like a dead fish floating**

So I’ll just keep paddlin’

Paddlin’ along

Down the Green River

Singing this song

Just keep paddlin’

Paddlin’ along

Down the Green River

Singing this song

 

View of the river and canyon walls, Green River, Utah.
View of the river and canyon walls, Green River, Utah.

*Upcanyon winds can be very strong in the afternoon and make it really hard for you to control your canoe.

**There were a lot of dead fish in the river this year, probably because of arsenic leakage from a mine upstream.

 

“Hi Ho (Green River Remix)” by Erisa and Amanda

Hi ho

Hi ho

Down the River we go

We paddle real hard

While our skin gets charred*

Hi ho

Hi ho hi ho

Hi ho

Hi ho

Down the River we go

We wash our dishes

With pee and fishes

Hi ho

Hi ho hi ho

Hi ho

Hi ho

Down the River we go

We climb real high

Almost to the sky**

Hi ho

Hi ho hi ho

Hi ho

Hi ho

Back to Moab we go

We’re one jet boat***

From a root beer float

Hi ho

Hi ho hi ho

Hi ho

 

*We’re at ~5000 feet and we’re in the sun all day, there’s very little shade cover, so burning is inevitable for the most part. Even as someone naturally endowed with highly burn resistant skin, I burned last year. So this year I covered up. Long pants, long shirt, all day. Sometimes I would change into shorter clothes post-5pm, but for the most part I stayed in the longs to be sun safe. And it worked! I believe sunscreen is a lie (with nothing but anecdotal evidence to back this up) and there is no substitute for covering up when in high sun-risk situations.

**At several camping sites along the Green River there are these great hikes. We went on several. One was at Bow Knot Ridge and it gives you a vantage point of another section of the Green River several miles downstream. So we hiked up and we able to see where we’d be about half way through the next day of canoeing. Another hike took us up The Doll’s House, a group of rock formations originally called The Sentinel’s because their appearance from the river makes them look like large statues overlooking the canyon. But when you get up there the formations create these spaces that look like they could almost be lived in. There are even Native American ruins from hundreds of years ago.

***Our final campsite was on the Colorado River and to get picked up we loaded all our gear and canoes onto a jet boat and motor-boated up the Colorado River back to Moab.

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