And in the morning when you filled my eyes
I knew that day I couldn’t do, ahh, no wrong, I couldn’t do
— Cat Stevens
Sept. 7 | Day 1: We leave well after dark on the first day, just to get underway and put some distance between us and home. The destination is Woodstock, Va., about 85 miles. The motorcycles — and the first song — are ready at 2230 hours.
Two years ago, I started the tradition of playing a song for Linda at the start of each riding day, and this trip is no different. Since we’re heading for New Orleans, choosing her first song, the one she listens to this dark night, is easy: The City of New Orleans, by Arlo Guthrie.
I loaded about 30 songs on the iPod for New Orleans, with some mission-specific tunes from Louie Armstrong, Ike and Tina Turner, and a few others. Other pieces were meant to lighten the mood after visiting somber places like Selma, Alabama, and Money, Mississippi.
This is what Linda heard during the ride:
Day 1, Sept. 7: The City of New Orleans / Arlo Guthrie
Day 2, Sept. 8: Fill My Eyes / Cat Stevens
Day 3, Sept. 9: Just a Ride / Jem
Day 4, Sept. 10: You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice / The Lovin’ Spoonful1
Day 5, Sept. 11: Dog & Butterfly / Heart
Day 6, Sept. 12: Proud Mary / Ike & Tina Turner
Day 7, Sept. 13: When the Saints Go Marching In / Louie Armstrong
Day 8, Sept. 14: Edge of the Ocean / Ivy
Day 9, Sept. 15: Chelsea Morning / Joni Mitchell
Day 10, Sept. 16: Baby You Know Me / Wolfboy Red
Day 11, Sept. 17: Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans / Louis Armstrong
Day 12, Sept. 18: I Only Have Eyes for You / The Flamingos
Day 13, Sept. 19: Two Hearts / Phil Collins
Day 14, Sept. 20: Chattanooga Choo-Choo / Glen Miller & His Orchestra
Day 15, Sept. 21: Count On Me / Jefferson Starship
Day 16, Sept. 22: Captain of Her Heart / Double
Day 17, Sept. 23: It Don’t Come Easy / Ringo Starr
Day 18, Sept. 24: Sentimental Lady / Bob Welch
Day 19, Sept. 25: We Are the Champions / Queen
The list wasn’t perfect, of course. I anticipated Chattanooga, but we changed course going home and unexpectedly stayed in Memphis. I would have given much for the haunting Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn. Alas, I wasn’t packing a laptop, so there was no way to download it.
Not all of the songs were directly related to New Orleans. We heard You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice at dinner one night at the Italian Café, so it was sort of a touchstone in addition to the nice sentiment.
Two Hearts was blasting across the night in 2009 at a remote Shell station in Slovakia2. We had left Hungary, crossed the Danube River enroute to Zvolen, and got lost after dark. I shut down the rented BMW motorcycle to refuel at the gas station, where the song was playing, incongruously and very loud.
Louie Armstrong also carried a poignant reminder of Jozef Pavlovic, the husband of Iva, one of my relatives in Slovakia. He passed away unexpectedly in 2012 at a young age. We met him during our travels to Slovakia and Hungary and he was a truly wonderful person.
He liked Satchmo’s music and I thought about Jozef quite a few times during the ride. I deeply regret the inability to get to know him better, but I’ll always remember him.
Music preserves memories, they say. Accordingly, our mission soundtracks constitute a special archive all their own.
1 — I love the 1965 video of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Notice how someone hastily put a piece of paper with the band’s name on it over the front of the bass drum.
2 — Curiously, we heard American music everywhere during our two motorcycle trips in Europe. It may be common, but I had not expected it.