Friday, September 30, 2016


Some days pass without anything noteworthy happening at all. The day begins. The day ends. And when you look back, you find it hard to remember anything that occurred.

But, some days are important. Some days significant things happen. Some days can change your life forever.

Ten years ago today, September 30, 2006, was one of those significant days for me. I asked someone to marry me. She said, "Yes." And nothing has been the same since.

You know, for someone known as "Slow Joe," it all happened pretty quickly. We met in May. We went on our first date in July. (Fairly late in July, in fact.) And now here it was, the last day of September, and I was ready to ask her to marry me. It was exactly ten weeks from our first date to the day we got engaged. That's crazy!!! I've had milk in my fridge longer than ten weeks! But, unlike the milk, our love doesn't have an expiration date. (Did I really just say that? Dang, thinking about this is getting me all shappy* again!) [*NOTE: "shappy" = sappy+happy.]

Truth be told, the speed with which I asked her to marry me was directly influenced by how slow I had been throughout my life. I was already 40 years old. Once I found the woman I wanted to marry, I didn't want to waste any more time!

I was lucky in many ways. (Some might even say the luckiest.) I didn't have to worry about shopping for an engagement ring. Amber had mentioned that there was a family heirloom ring that she wanted for an engagement ring, you know, if someone were to ask to marry her. So, all I had to do to secure an engagement ring was call Terri (my friend and Amber's neighbor, and the woman who set us up in the first place) to go next door and get the ring for me.

When the time came to put my plan into action, I quickly and quietly stopped at Terri's house to get the ring, then went next door to pick up Amber. My plan consisted of revisiting our second date, on which we went on an all day hike on Mount Timpanogas. (See: The Date That Lasted 16 Hours.)

I wasn't interested in that long of a hike on this day. We parked at the Aspen Grove trailhead, just up the mountain from the Sundance ski resort. The idea was to hike up to the first waterfall. It was a little farther than I remembered, and it took us about a half an hour to get to the waterfall. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, it was also crowded.

The waterfall.

When we arrived at the waterfall, there was already another couple there, plus a large family with several children. I stalled for a bit, hoping that some of the other visitors to the waterfall would leave. The couple did leave, and I thought the family was going to go as well. But, then they broke out their sandwiches; they were going to stay right there for a picnic lunch. I was not going to get to propose at the waterfall without onlookers eating peanut butter and jelly.

So, I took Amber downstream from the waterfall a few feet. There was a small rapid amongst the rocks. I decided this was the place I would ask Amber to marry me. I started to reach into my pocket for the ring when a small face appeared over the rocks above us, eating peanut butter and jelly and staring at us. Then another head popped up to stare. And another. And another. (The family at the waterfall had four kids. Or maybe five kids. Or maybe seven kids. Or possibly 12 kids. This is Utah, after all.)

So, I sat with Amber and waited. I didn't want an audience. Eventually, the sandwich-eaters lost interest, and we had a moment alone. That's all I needed; that's all I wanted. I reached into my pocket and took out the ring. (And, truth be told, from the instant I got the ring out the sandwich kids may have reappeared, but I wouldn't have noticed. From that moment on, my mind was in another place.)

I got down on one knee and asked Amber to marry me. She acted surprised. (She wasn't totally surprised; she had an inkling.) She acted happy. (It wasn't an act. She was happy.) She said yes!!! (And I was happy!)

The little rapid where I proposed.
We sat there by our little rapid and enjoyed the moment. We probably even kissed a little. I couldn't tell you if the sandwich family was still there when we left or not. It didn't matter. I was floating in another realm! We skipped back to the car and drove back to civilization to tell everyone our good news.

In the ten years since, I've had a lot of good, memorable days, most notably my wedding day and the births of our four children. But it all started that day ten years ago with a ring, a waterfall, and a woman that I love! (I get all shappy just thinking about it!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dad Jokes = Funny Jokes

People say "Dad jokes" like it's a bad thing. Personally, I don't see any difference between "Dad jokes" and "funny jokes." (But, that might be because I am a dad.)

The other day I was in the kitchen by myself, getting something to eat, while The Wife was in the next room with our two babies. I found myself a banana and started singing a little song called "Hello." From the other room I could hear The Wife tell the babies, "Oh look, even when he's by himself he still does the 'Dad jokes.'" Without seeing me, she knew what I had done. I had taken the banana, held it between my ear and mouth, and said "Hello," as if it were a telephone.

She was right, of course. Even though there was no one else in the room, I had briefly pretended that my banana was a telephone. It's a "Dad joke" that often gets my kids to laugh and/or smile. In fact, at this point if I didn't do it they would wonder what was wrong with me. If Dad has a banana, he's going to pretend it is a phone. For them, that's just life.

And for me, it's just funny, whether I'm a Dad or not. In fact, I've seen well-respected professional comedian Amy Poehler do the exact same banana-phone joke on Saturday Night Live, so it must be funny! Right? Why classify it as a "Dad joke" when it's just a funny joke?


If you were to Google "Dad jokes," or look it up on those newfangled hashtags (#dadjokes) (yes, I said "newfangled." I am a dad, after all) you'll find a bunch of jokes, many of which are punny, and almost all of which are funny. (My favorite: "I have a fear of speed bumps. I'm slowly getting over it.") People seem to think that labeling these jokes as "Dad" jokes makes them less funny. I don't get it.

I have several "Dad jokes" that I use regularly besides the banana-phone. If I'm driving down the road and see a bale of hay, whether it be in a field, on a load being hauled, or in a haystack, I'll shout, "Hey!" or maybe, "Hey there!" We live in farm country, so that's a lot of hay/Hey! And you know what, it's funny every single time! (It doesn't matter if I'm a dad or not.) Sometimes I'll even do a bad Jerry Seinfeld impersonation and say, "I'm thinkin', hey!" (My kids have no idea who Jerry Seinfeld is.) (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

"Hey there!" (Or maybe "Hay there!")

Whenever I see a toy or article of clothing featuring the character Winnie the Pooh, I'll say something like, "Ewww, there's poo on the floor," or "Ewww, there's poo on your shirt." Is this a "Dad joke?" Sure. But once, several years ago, it led to my oldest daughter making the funniest Winnie the Pooh joke ever told by a two year-old. (I was so proud!)

"Look out! There's Pooh on the couch!"

One of the most commonly cited "Dad jokes" is this one:
Kid: "I'm hungry."
Dad: "Hi, hungry. I'm Dad."

I have a variation of that one that I use frequently. The conversation will go something like this:
Kid: "I'm thirsty."
Me: "You're Thursday? How can you be Thursday when it's only Tuesday?"

It's a great joke that works perfectly six days a week. (It doesn't work so well if they say "I'm thirsty" on a Thursday.)

Oh, and there are a lot more "Dad jokes" where those came from. I push the end of my nose with my finger every time the microwave beeps, and my toddler thinks it is hysterical. Whenever I'm on an elevator with my kids I pretend that the elevator is going to crash, and they laugh every time.

So, I don't care what other people think: "Dad jokes" are hilarious! Not mid-larious. Not low-larious. But high-larious! (And you'll never convince me otherwise.)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Poop Story

I've got two kids in diapers. I deal with a lot of poop.

I just don't really want to deal with other people's poop.

Earlier this summer, we were out for a long drive when I pulled into a fast food joint with The Wife and the kids. (For the sake of anonymity, I'll call the place "McFastfood's.") When I went to get Thing 3 (our toddler girl) out of the van, I could tell not only that she had pooped, but that the diaper had failed to contain all of the poop. So, while The Wife took care of the other three kids, I grabbed Thing 3 and the diaper bag and headed off to the McFastfood's restroom to deal with some poop.

It was a small restroom with a sink, a urinal, and one handicap toilet stall with a diaper changing table on the wall of the stall. No one was in the restroom, so I took Thing 3 into the stall, opened the diaper changing table, and took care of things. I cleaned the poop off of her back, and got as much off of her clothes as I could. I delicately and skillfully (I've done this a few times) got her poop-stained clothes off of her without getting more poop on her or on the diaper changing table. (Not as easy as it sounds.) I put the poop-stained clothes into a scented bag designed for just that purpose. (For those of you who don't have children, yes, they sell scented bags for the sole purpose of containing the stink of clothing that has been pooped on. If they didn't, basically all children's clothing would have to be considered disposable.)

Once I finished dealing with Thing 3's poop, I took her back out to the PlayPlace to play with Thing 1 and Thing 2. The Wife had placed our order and was watching the other kids while waiting for our food. She handed me Thing 4, our little baby boy, and asked me if I could change his diaper, too, so that afterwards she could feed him. (I don't like changing diapers, but since I can't breastfeed the baby it seems only fair-ish that I change a diaper every once in a while.)


So, I took the baby to the bathroom, but this time I was not alone. Someone was at the urinal, and someone was in the stall. So, I left the bathroom and positioned myself at a table where I could watch the bathroom door and see when the people who were in there would exit.

As the baby and I were thus waiting, an older lady came up to me and started to comment about how cute the baby was. She was speaking the truth, because, dang, The Wife and I make some darn cute babies! As we talked, she said what almost everyone tells me at one point or another, "enjoy them while you can." (#enjoythemwhileyoucan)

By the time I got away from the nice lady, I had no idea what the status of the bathroom population was anymore. So, I took the baby and the diaper bag and went back into the restroom. The stall was empty, so I entered, locking the door behind me. The smell of the place almost knocked me over, but I managed to maintain my footing and get the baby to the changing table. Luckily, the baby only had a wet diaper, so I was done dealing with poop for the time being.

Or so I thought.

I had finished putting the new diaper on the baby, and was starting to snap his onesie back on him, when the overwhelming stench started to get to me again. I glanced over at the toilet, and that's when I saw it:


There was poop on the toilet seat! Not just a little poop. There was a lot of poop! It wasn't a turd; it was spread all over the top of the toilet seat. It was as if someone had tried to frost a cake, but the frosting was poop and the cake was the toilet seat. It was disgusting.

I was both awestruck and dumbfounded. (And grossed out.)

And so, as I finished getting the baby ready, I had a choice to make. I could A) run out of that restroom, get as far away from that toilet as possible, and never look back! Or I could B) leave the restroom and immediately tell a McFastfood's employee that they needed to go into that restroom with a gas mask and a fire hose and do some serious cleaning.

I chose neither of those options. Being a man who regularly deals with poop, I chose option 3). I took the baby wipes that I already had at the ready, I went over to the toilet, and I wiped it down. I cleaned another man's poop off of the toilet seat!

Why, you ask? Why would I clean a grown man's poop off of the toilet seat when I didn't have to do so? Was it because I'm amazingly altruistic, always looking to do things to help out my fellow man?

Nope. I did it out of fear. I did it because I was afraid that someone might see me coming out of the restroom, then go in, discover the Poopocalypse, and blame me for it. I cleaned up the poopy mess simply because I didn't want anyone to think that I was the one who had smeared poop on the toilet seat like cream cheese on a bagel. I'm not that good-hearted. I just didn't want anyone pointing fingers at me.

So, I cleaned off the toilet seat, washed, washed, washed, and washed my hands, then left the restroom hoping to never return again. By the time I got back to The Wife, the other kids had already eaten their food and were romping around in the McFastfood's PlayPlace. My food was mostly cold, but that didn't stop me from eating it.

You may wonder how I could eat food after dealing with all of that poop? Simple. I'm a Dad. Dealing with poop is second nature to me. I'm not about to let a little poop get in the way of my food!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Box of Misfit Toys

Everyone knows that an empty box is the favorite toy for kids to play with. (I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere recently.) But did you know what their next favorite toy is? Any toy that you are about to give away to charity or throw away.

Adults and kids look at toys differently. An adult will look at a toy and think, "They haven't played with that in forever. I think it's time to send it along to Deseret Industries." (Or Salvation Army. Or Goodwill. Or whatever the local charity is in your area that accepts used donated toys.)

Meanwhile, a kid will look at that same toy and think, "Wow! I haven't played with that toy in forever! I think I'll make it my new favorite toy and play with it non-stop for the next week or two!"

What is especially helpful to the children is when you pile a bunch of these seldom-used toys together in a box. You might as well paint a huge arrow on the wall pointing to the box with the message, "Here are some toys that you'll really want to play with!" Because they will. Unless, of course, you actually do want them to play with the toys. Kids are good at sniffing these things out and doing the opposite of what you'd like them to do.

And, it doesn't matter if the toy is broken. A broken toy in the charity pile is much more enticing than a non-broken toy in the regular toy box. Besides, sometimes a toy is more fun when it is broken than when it is not.

Broken arm Iron Man? Best toy ever!!!

Santa from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had it all wrong. Instead of exiling all of the undesirables to the Island of Misfit Toys, he could have just put them in a box labelled "Going to charity" and the toys would have found good homes with plenty of children willing to play with them. (But then, the Santa from Rudolph isn't exactly the brightest or nicest guy around. In fact, he's a bit of a jerk.)

Sometimes I wonder why we even bother to buy new toys for the kids. But, I guess if we never bought toys we wouldn't have any toys to put in the charity box. And if there were no toys in the charity box, what would the kids have to play with?

(Oh, I guess they could always just play with the empty box.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

5 Reasons a Box Is the Best Toy Ever

We have a box in our living room. It has been in our living room for quite a while. It is wonderful. Here's just a few of the reasons why:

Box is affordable.
We didn't pay any money to get the box. Oh, sure, you might say that part of our annual Amazon Prime fee goes to paying for the boxes, but I think that's just nitpicking. Besides, it doesn't have to be an Amazon Prime box for the kids to enjoy it. Quite often boxes that toys come in get played with more than the toy that came in the box.

Box is durable.
We have had the box that is currently in our living room for several months. In that time it has been stepped in, stepped on, sat in, sat on, kicked, punched, turned upside down, stood upon, and taken pretty much any other abuse that can possibly be inflicted upon it by four children. And still it stands! (Very few purchased toys would be able to withstand such a thrashing.)

Box is disposable.
And yet, if the box were to collapse, or if we, as parents, got tired of it, we could simply break it down and put it in the recycling bin. Recycling is a good thing. We can use the box to help "save the planet."

Box is replaceable.
If we do get rid of the box, there's nothing to worry about. Why? Well, another box will be along soon to take its place. There will be another large toy, small appliance, or Amazon Prime order. There will always be another box.


Box is versatile.
This is the key. A box can be anything! Over the past several weeks the box in our living room has been:
a race car
a space ship
a closet
a submarine
a stage
a transporter machine
a boat
a movie theater's desk
a coffin
a castle
a cave
a space station
a coloring book
a hiding place
and a throne. (Among other things.)

Oh, and a radio. (One kid hides inside the box. A second kid knocks on the box and requests a song. Then, the kid who is hiding inside the box must sing the song that has been requested.) Box!

So, yes, a box is the best toy you could ever have for your children. They'll have hours and hours of fun with it. (Unless you want them to play with the box. If so, they'll completely ignore it.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life Is Full of Disappointments

Life is full of disappointments.

I was at Arby's the other day when a mom and her three year-old daughter came from the counter to take a seat. The conversation went like this:

Mom: "Where do you want to sit?"
Three Year-Old Girl: "By the jumpy place! By the jumpy place!"

(The Three Year-Old Girl looks around and sees that there is no play area for kids.)

Three Year-Old Girl: "I don't want to stay here!"
Mom: "Where do you want to sit?"
Three Year-Old Girl: "I don't want to stay here! I don't want to stay here!"

(The Three Year-Old Girl stomps her feet repeatedly.)
(The Mom sits down at a table.)

Mom: "Let's sit here."
Three Year-Old Girl: "Noooooooooooo!!!"


Yes, life is full of disappointments. It's something that Three Year-Old Arby's Girl is going to have to get used to. It's something she's going to have to learn how to handle better.

I'm a grown man. I'm a grown man who is a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings. I've dealt with a few disappointments in my life. (But, dang, that Teddy Bridgewater injury was really not fair!) At some point we all have to learn how to deal with these disappointments with grace.

But, there are occasionally still times when I feel like reacting to disappointment like Three Year-Old Arby's Girl.

Take this year's presidential election, for example. Three Year-Old Arby's Girl walked into Arby's thinking she'd get some food and have some fun at the kid's play area. I went into this election thinking I'd find a viable candidate that I would want to vote for as president.

Eventually, Three Year-Old Arby's Girl looked around, noticed that there was no kid's play area, and was not happy. I looked around, noticed the two-party system gave us the two most unlikable presidential candidates in the history of America, and was not happy.


Three Year-Old Arby's Girl threw a fit, stomped her feet repeatedly, and yelled, "Nooooooo!!!" I have not yet thrown a fit, but I'm about ready to stomp my feet and yell, "Noooooooooo!!!"

(At least Three Year-Old Arby's Girl might get to eat a delicious Beef 'N Cheddar. Me, I got nothing. I'm very disappointed. I guess I'm going to have to learn how to deal with it.)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Who Needs Sleep?

A few months ago, my wife and I had a baby.

He's our fourth baby, so we kind of knew what we were in for when he got here. We knew that with a baby, you can never count on getting a good night's sleep. With a baby, sleeping through the night is often nothing more than a dream.

But, sometimes dreams come true.

The baby has been wonderful! He's not even four months old, but he's already been sleeping through the night for over two months! He regularly sleeps (knock on wood) from around 9:00 PM until about 7:00 AM every night. It's been surprising and fantastic.

A sleeping baby is a wonderful thing!

So, you would think that means I get to sleep through the night, too. Well, you would be wrong. My other kids have made sure of that.

The other night Thing 3 (our 21 month-old girl) decided to replay a scenario that occurred many, many times during her first 15 months of existence. She woke up screaming at 1:40 AM. After a few minutes (which I gave her in the futile hope she would calm down and go back to sleep on her own) I went in to check on her. She hadn't pooped. She hadn't barfed. She didn't want to eat. She didn't want to drink. She probably would have loved to watch a show on the television, but I wasn't going to go there.

Instead, I just sat there with her until she calmed down. After a few minutes I tried to put her back to bed, but she made sure she let me know that wasn't her plan. Finally, after a little over an hour, she allowed me to place her back in her crib, and I crawled back into my own bed at 2:50 AM, wide awake.

To be fair, after an entire infancy of late nights and middle-of-the-nights, Thing 3 has mostly done a pretty good job of sleeping through the night for the past six months or so.

With the baby sleeping through the night, and the toddler making it through most nights, I should be getting some good rest, right? Well, no. A couple of nights ago Thing 1, our eight year-old daughter, decided to remind us that as parents you are never safe from getting  woke waked woked wakeded awakened awoken wakey-waked  unenslumbered by one of your children.

It was somewhere around 1:00 AM when the eight year-old decided to make multiple visits to our bedroom. The first visit was to inform us that she had to go potty. Fine. Go potty. No one cares. Just go potty and go back to sleep.

The second visit was to inform us about the bad dreams. Great. Bad dreams. Nothing to be afraid of. Just go back to bed and think good thoughts. Go to sleep.

The third visit was similar to the second visit, with a few additions. "I tried thinking good thoughts, but it didn't work. I'm still having bad dreams." And then, there was the kicker: "Can I sleep in the bed with you?"

I was thinking about what words of encouragement I could add to my answer of "No," since my previous "think good thoughts" had already been shot down. But, before I could answer, I was shocked (yes, SHOCKED!!!) by my wife's reply: "Yeah, whatever."

My wife's response shocked me for two reasons. 1) It was unprecedented. Never before had we allowed our oldest daughter to sleep in the bed with us because of bad dreams, or any other reason. And, B) The Wife isn't usually a softy. She's a junior high math teacher with a reputation of not giving in to her students. So, I was quite surprised that she relented and let the girl get in bed with us.

(Later, The Wife told me she surprised herself, as well. She blamed it on the lack of sleep, and the daughter's persistent and frequent badgering.)

As soon as Thing 1 crawled in bed with us, any hope I had of getting a good night's sleep went out the figurative window. She took the spot in-between us, which meant that I was pushed over to the edge of my side of the bed. It also meant that I was unable to roll over, for fear of crushing the girl.

Have you ever tried to sleep the entire night without rolling over once? It's not the best way to get a get a relaxing night of slumber.

Eventually came the "beep, beep, beep" of The Wife's alarm clock. It is not the sound of happiness. Muttering to myself, I climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom. When I exited that room, Thing 1 was standing there, bright-eyed and energetic, and she joyously declared, "This was the best night ever!"

I gave her the best angry glare I could muster, and she quickly tried to put the dampers on her excited exclamation by adding, "I mean, it was the best night ever, after I went to sleep on the bed with you guys. Before that, with the nightmares, it wasn't so good, but after that, that's when it was the best night ever." She quickly bounded out of the room, buoyant with energy and with a big smile on her face.

Meanwhile, I stumbled around the room, hoping to find the light switch without stubbing my toe.

Is it bad that I was resentful of my daughter's happiness? Yes, of course. I should wish for happiness for my children. But, at that moment I was having a hard time doing so.

So, the bottom line is, if you have children, any children at all, consider yourself lucky whenever you can sleep through the entire night. Enjoy it. Cherish it. Because it might not ever happen again.

[NOTE: I finished writing this last night. This morning, the baby woke us up at 4:40 AM. And so it continues.]

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Two Times My Dad Spanked Me

The other day Thing 3 (our 21 month-old toddler girl) decided to take a crayon and draw all over the refrigerator, the front door, a baby toy, and a few other places that I'm sure I haven't discovered yet.

She's still young enough that she doesn't fully understand the ramifications of drawing on the refrigerator with crayons. At this point the best we can do is keep telling her, "Only draw on paper!" I guess we could spank her, but at her age I don't think it would be very effective.

My "Little Cutie" on her way to Crayola up more of the house.

But, this incident did bring to mind a couple of experiences from my own childhood.

I honestly don't recall if my Mom ever spanked me. She probably did, but if so I don't remember. My Dad is another story. I distinctly remember being spanked by my Dad on two different occasions. (He might have spanked me more than twice, but I doubt it.)

My Dad was a large, imposing man. (6'4" tall; over 240 pounds.) He wasn't very scary, though, because he was usually good-natured. He rarely lost his temper. (Except when he was working with cows on the farm.) But that meant that on the few times that he did get upset with me, I knew he was serious.

I drew on the wall with crayon. I was four or five or six years old at the time. Old enough that I knew better. I think it might even have been one of those "wait 'til your Dad gets home" situations. Mom didn't use that phrase very often, so I was filled with foreboding as I awaited his arrival.

But, the bottom line is, I did something wrong. I knew it was wrong when I did it. I was punished. And I never drew on the walls with crayons again.

The other time my Dad spanked me is more memorable. I recall everything leading up to the spanking.

I was in first or second grade, and I had a friend who loved to tell jokes. (We'll call him Daren "Chuck.") Chuck would get his hands on every kind of joke book he could find, and he would tell the jokes all the time. Silly jokes, and knock-knock jokes, and pickle jokes. Yes, there was a book of pickle jokes. Jokes like:

What's green and wears a mask?
The Lone Pickle.

Or, What's black and white and green and black and white?
Two penguins fighting over a pickle.

This is what passed as high humor when we were in first grade. Chuck loved these joke books, and he loved to tell the jokes. I thought they were funny, and I sometimes retold those jokes.

One time, after a long day at work, Dad was sitting in his chair reading the newspaper. (Reading the newspaper: it's a thing people used to actually do.) I was so excited by Chuck's latest batch of pickle jokes that I felt the need to tell some of them to Dad. Except, I couldn't really get Dad's attention. (He was probably too busy reading "Dear Abby.")  I told Dad a particularly "funny" pickle joke. He didn't laugh. Befuddled that my best pickle joke couldn't elicit a reaction, I said to Dad, "Gee, you're dumb!"

Well, THAT got his attention!

Dad looked away from his "Wizard of Id" and "Hagar the Horrible," and gave me a stern look. "What did you say?" he asked.

"I said, 'Gee, you're dumb,'" I stupidly replied.

I quickly discovered that calling my Dad "dumb" was a dumb thing to do.

I learned my lesson. I didn't ever call my Dad, or any other adult, dumb ever again. (Well, at least until the current election cycle.)

I'm not a big fan of corporal punishment. I think that usually there are better ways to correct children. But, I do believe that in special circumstances and rare occasions, a spanking can be what is needed.

I know, at least, that the spanking my Dad gave me taught me a valuable lesson that I'll always remember: pickle jokes aren't really that funny.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The 13 Best Obscure Road Trip Songs

Getting ready for a road trip? One of the best ways to stay awake and pass the time is have a good road trip mix tape at the ready. (Or a playlist if "mix tape" is too old fashioned for you.)

Unfortunately, most lists of road trip songs contain many of the same songs over and over again. (Like, "Life Is a Highway," "Runnin' Down a Dream," "Road to Nowhere," and "King of the Road.") These are great driving songs, but sometimes it helps to change things up a bit. Maybe try a few songs you aren't as familiar with.

It's time to get this car in motion!

Here are 13 of the best obscure road trip songs:
(All but one of the songs includes a link to a 30 second sample on, with an option to buy it if you like it.)

13. "Any Road"--George Harrison Sample lyrics: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."

This song is from Harrison's final album, Brainwashed, which was released in 2002, a few months after his death. It's a simple, catchy guitar tune, just uptempo enough to keep your toes tapping. (Just be sure not to tap on the gas pedal.)

Check it out on Amazon: Any Road

12. "Theme From 'Carjack Fever'"--Harvey Danger Sample lyrics: "You don't need a passport to know what state you're in."

Harvey Danger is mostly known for their one hit, 1998's "Flagpole Sitta" from the album "Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?" This song is from their next album, "King James Version." The song is called "Theme From 'Carjack Fever'" even though there is no movie or television show named "Carjack Fever" for it to be the theme of. (Harvey Danger just likes to mess with your mind.)

It's a hard-driving, fast-paced song full of guitars and an occasional scream. And it will make you want to drive faster than you already are.

Check it out on Amazon: Theme From "Carjack Fever"

11. "Red Cars Are After Me"--Roy Wood Sample lyrics: "Even though I try to act naturally, I know that red cars are after me."

Roy Wood was a founding member of the Electric Light Orchestra, and before that was a driving force behind the successful 60s' British band The Move. He left ELO after only one album, and never really enjoyed commercial success in the United States. This song is from his little-heard 1987 album "Starting Up."

The song itself squarely finds itself at the intersection of Paranoia and Groove.

Check it out on Amazon: Red Cars Are After Me

10. "Eight Hundred and Thirteen Mile Car Trip"--They Might Be Giants Sample lyrics: "Eight hundred and thirteen mile car trip. Four hundred and seventeen miles to go."

When most people think of They Might Be Giants, they think of accordions and silliness. And while there's certainly some silliness here, there is no accordion to be found, just hard-driving guitars and drums moving at a breakneck speed. (It's from their 2008 children's album titled "Here Come the 123s.")

Check it out on Amazon: Eight Hundred and Thirteen Mile Car Trip

9. "Long Line of Cars"--Cake Sample lyrics: "There's no single explanation; there's no central destination. But this long line of cars is trying to get through."

While this list is mostly about songs for driving out on the open road, occasionally road construction and/or rush hour will leave your crawling along at a snail's pace, bumper to bumper. "Long Line of Cars," from the 2001 album "Comfort Eagle," is the musical manifestation of those frustrating times.

Check it out on Amazon: Long Line of Cars

And this long line of cars....

8. "Nowhere Road"--Fastball Sample lyrics: "It don't matter what they say. You can't get there going this way."

Fastball's 1998 album, "All the Pain Money Can Buy," features the band's biggest hit, "The Way," which is an excellent driving song itself. ("Where were they going without ever knowing the way.") But, "Nowhere Road" has its own tale to tell, "from L.A. to Miami and all points in between."

Check it out on Amazon: Nowhere Road

7. "I'm In Love With My Car"--Queen Sample lyrics: "Told my girl I'll have to forget her. Rather buy me a new carburetor."

Written and sung by Queen's drummer, Roger Taylor, it's from the 1975 album "A Night At the Opera," and was the "B" side on the single for "Bohemian Rhapsody." This is a heartfelt love ode to our "four wheeled friends."

Check it out on Amazon: I'm In Love With My Car

6. "American Car"--Mike Doughty Sample lyrics: "I'm done with elephants and clowns. I want to run away and join the office."

This song comes from the former Soul Coughing frontman's 2005 solo album "Haughty Melodic." It features some nimble guitar work and clever lyrics about a "long, black, American car."

Check it out on Amazon: American Car

5. "Holiday Road"--Lindsay Buckingham Sample lyrics: "Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. Take a ride on the west coast kick."

This song is fairly well known from the soundtrack of the 1983 movie National Lampoon's Vacation, starring Chevy Chase. But, I'll still count it as obscure because it only made it to #82 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It's a great song for a drive to Wally World, Hollywood, or Dollywood, (Bonus points for the dog barking at the end of the song.)

Check it out on Amazon: Holiday Road

4. "Highway 40"--Brak and Freddie Prinze, Jr. Sample lyrics: "I'm driving down highway 40 in my big, old, pickup truck."

Brak first appeared as a villain on the Space Ghost cartoon show in 1966. The character was revived and revised as a goofy, fun-loving simpleton in the mid 1990s for the Cartoon Network shows Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Cartoon Planet. Eventually, Brak even got his own sitcom, The Brak Show, which aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim imprint in 2001.

The song "Highway 40" consists of one line of lyrics (quoted above) repeated over and over again. Amazingly, multiple versions of this simple song were recorded, the best of which features Brak singing it as a duet with actor Freddie Prinze, Jr.

Brak and Prinze sing the song using different voices, including as fishes, as monsters, and as Tom Brokaw. Some might find this very annoying. Others, including children of a certain age and adults with a juvenile sense of humor, will find it to be incredibly amusing.

Check it out on Amazon (Song preview unavailable, but here's a link to the album): Highway 40
(Here's a link to the song on YouTube: Highway 40 video.)

3. "Sausalito Summernight"--Diesel Sample lyrics: "Another mile or two to Frisco. 200 gallons from L.A. The engine's thumping like a disco, we ought to dump her in the bay."

Okay, so this one isn't as "obscure" as the other songs on this list. From the 1980 album "Watts In the Tank," it made it all the way to #25 on the Billboard Hot 100. But, it's not like you hear a lot of Diesel on anyone's playlists.

Besides the great guitar riff, what makes this a good road trip song is that no matter how bad your road trip might be going, it's got to be better than the road trip these guys are having. The radiator's running dry. They blew a gasket. The engine's thumping like a disco. They can't afford a blowout, 'cause they haven't got a spare!

Also of interest is that this song about an all-American, California road trip is sung by a rock group from the Netherlands. Diesel consists of some Dutch musicians with names like "Frank Papendrecht," "Rob Vunderink," and (best of all) "Pim Koopman," singing about root beer and the Golden Gate Bridge! (Yes, that name was "Pim Koopman.")

Check it out on Amazon: Sausalito Summernight

2. "Drive Faster"--The Vicksburgs Sample lyrics: "Gotta feel that wind blowing in her hair, and she's mine when I drive faster."

That Thing You Do! was a movie Tom Hanks made in 1996 about a one-hit-wonder rock band in the sixties. For the soundtrack of the movie, a bunch of songs were written to sound like the rock songs of that era. "Drive Faster" is one of those songs. It was written by Scott Rogness and Rick Elias, and performed by the fictional rock group The Vicksburgs.

Like most songs on the soundtrack, "Drive Faster" does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the time period, while also being a fun song to listen to. It's got a definite Beach Boys vibe to it, and it encourages both singing along and actually driving faster.

(The fact that That Thing You Do! didn't win the Academy Award for best song is one of the biggest travesties in Oscar history.)

Check it out on Amazon: Drive Faster

1. "Open Road Song"--Eve 6 Sample lyrics: "My pile shakes as I hit eighty on the open road. This is an open road song."

From "Eve 6," the band's self-titled 1998 album, "Open Road Song" is a perfect song for the open road. The furious fast pace of the guitars forces the foot down on the accelerator. And the image of a lonely driver racing down the road while singing along to a radio song is something to which we can all relate.

Check it out on Amazon: Open Road Song

Now, go get out on the road and drive!!!