Taking a Radio Road Trip

Over the last two weeks I drove 2,300 miles from St. Augustine to Dallas and back, visiting for a week to see the oldest and youngest members of my family -- my 80-year-old grandmother and 8-week old nephew.

I subscribed to XM Satellite Radio during the trip, stopping at a Wal-Mart in Live Oak, Florida, to buy a Delphi SkyFi receiver.

The Jetsons future has arrived. I set up XM service with a cell phone and credit card as we drove down Interstate 10, placed an antenna smaller than a floppy disk on the dash, and began receiving 230 stations within 30 minutes.

I bought the radio to free myself of the need to maniacally hunt for stations as they dropped in and out of range on the road trip. Though I got it primarily for Sporting News Radio (how could the Lakers trade Shaq?), the most useful channel turned out to be Open Road, a truckers' radio station that offers frequent interstate weather reports.

Because of Open Road, we avoided storms on I-10 coming home, stopping for the night in Biloxi, Mississippi, when they reported thunderstorms from Alabama to Jacksonville. Driving at night on a highway full of trucks and tired travellers always makes me think about Jayne Mansfield. And not in a good way.

Open Road's a fascinating example of a community forming out of thin air. More than 70,000 of XM's one million subscribers are truckers, according to Truck.Net, and callers, who are primarily long-haul truckers, talked about road conditions, kvetched about concerns such as the law that forbids idling trucks overnight to keep with the air conditioning on, and discussed the need to organize politically. It felt like an 18-wheeled MetaFilter.

Comments

The trucker's station is great, isn't it? Both for its utility and its glimpse into another profession -- how truckers think about their contracts, buying their own vehicle, or changing carriers...

Fascinating.

I like the two comedy channels, too. Also they rerun Burns and Allen on the Radio Classics channel. Gracie Allen -- you have to be really smart to be that stupid! Dated, maybe, but still just fun to listen to.

Sirius is better.

How? I chose XM because it had one station I knew I would be listening to often: Sporting News. I figured the rest -- all-music channels and the like -- were comparable to each other.

Scripting News Radio!?!?

Oh, "Sporting News Radio"... nevermind... ;)

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