“I’m gonna take you to my special place. It’s a place that you, like no one else I know, might appreciate…”
– Joni Mitchell, “My Secret Place”
The idea came to me unexpectedly on April 24, 134 days before we took the motorcycles to Quebec.
We were in the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center, listening to the astronauts of STS-125 talk about their mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. One of them, Megan McArthur Behnken, I think, mentioned that Mission Control in Houston would wake them every day by playing a song, one with special meaning for a member of the crew.
I remember thinking oh, the genius of that and filed it for our own mission, months away.
The right song is essential at the start of the day, and later inside your motorcycle helmet as you’re flying down the road. It helps set, and keep, the day in motion.
I didn’t say anything but started making notes, jotting down possibilities when I’d think of a song or hear something played on the radio or in a commercial. It was a delightful side job to the overall mission prep and I could do it without up-wiring the Vespa or bolting something on Terra Nova.
So on the first day, shortly before we left the house, I handed my iPod to Linda and said, “There are 16 songs for you, one for each day. This is the first.”
And she put in her earbuds and heard a Carpenters song, admittedly schmaltzy, but oh, so fitting.
This is what she heard:
Day 1, Sept. 5: We’ve Only Just Begun / Carpenters
Day 2, Sept. 6: America / Simon and Garfunkel
Day 3, Sept. 7: Go Where You Wanna Go / Mamas and Papas
Day 4, Sept. 8: Every Day is a Winding Road / Sheryl Crow
Day 5, Sept. 9: Cruisin’ / Huey Lewis and Gywneth Paltrow
Day 6, Sept. 10: Sweetheart Like You / Bob Dylan
Day 7, Sept. 11: My Secret Place / Joni Mitchell
Day 8, Sept. 12: Country Road / James Taylor
Day 9, Sept. 13: Secret Garden / Bruce Springsteen
Day 10, Sept. 14: Ride Away / Roy Orbison
Day 11, Sept. 15: I Can See Clearly Now / Johnny Nash
Day 12, Sept. 16: Lovely Day / Bill Withers
Day 13, Sept. 17: I Got a Name / Jim Croce
Day 14, Sept. 18: Tangled Up in Blue / Bob Dylan
Day 15, Sept. 19: I’ve Been Everywhere / Johnny Cash
Day 16, Sept. 20: Homeward Bound / Simon and Garfunkel
I actually had 22 songs in that corner of the iPod, keeping a few in reserve to be swapped in if needed.
But there was only two substitutions, I think. Heroes by David Bowie fell out and Ride Away came in, for the laugh it gave Linda because she thought of the chicken in the Geico commercial.
Right Beside You by Sophie B. Hawkins withdrew in favor of I Got a Name to later emphasize something I said to Linda on the ferry from Baie Comeau to Matane.
It turned out I misunderstood the meaning of a couple songs, but I kept them in anyway, just because chorus worked so well. America is kinda sad if you really listen to the last part, but you can think of it as the need to work to keep a relationship going.
And Go Where You Wanna Go is almost two different songs, the chorus as encouragement to lead your own life, the verses about being left behind.
But I Can See Clearly Now was perfect the day after our rain on the Gaspe Peninsula and I’ve Been Everywhere and Homeward Bound were the best endings, the best music to play as the credits were rolling for our ride.