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April 12, 2005 |

Post to the Host:
Garrison, when I offhandedly recommended Kerouac's "On the Road" to our 16-year-old daughter last year, I had no idea it would set in motion her own desire to travel across the United States by automobile. Believe it or not, she is willing to spend five weeks in a Ford Escape with us this summer. We are excited about the trip, albeit a little apprehensive about the amount of time we will be spending in the car. At home, we routinely encounter stressful situations during simple family trips to the grocery store.

To be perfectly candid with you, we've experienced our most ill-tempered disagreements in the car with the radio is tuned to Prairie Home Companion. My wife and I are huge fans of your show, but for some reason our daughter reacts as if the speakers are spewing red hot ashes at her. I can neither explain nor do I condone this behavior, but my wife and I keep telling ourselves she will develop a greater appreciation for public radio once she's a college student — probably sometime after the novelty of Jell-O shooters wears off. I remember I had just graduated from college when I discovered your show about 20 years ago. I was on my cross-country trip in a white '66 Mustang with solid chrome rims. After a few weeks on the road, my antenna developed a short and reception was marginal. A Jeff Beck tape was jammed in the cassette player. And I was running short of beer money. This perfect storm of misfortunes led me to the lower end of the dial and an entertainment anomaly called A Prairie Home Companion.

Our family will be leaving South Carolina for our road trip on June 29 and we plan to take the southerly route through Birmingham, Austin, New Orleans, Santa Fe and LA. We will head north to San Francisco in mid-July and then up the West Coast before turning east toward Yellowstone by the end of July. We should be arriving in Minnesota at the beginning of August. Ironically, my wife's only condition on agreeing to this odyssey is that we make time to catch one of your shows in person. Our daughter has reluctantly agreed to attend. I checked your Web site, but I did not see any summer dates. Could you make sure to schedule one or two shows around the first of August? Alternatively, we would be willing to rearrange our travel plans to see your performances at any of the above areas we plan to visit. Please let me know which would be more convenient for you.

Cal Harrison
Ridgeway, S.C.

Cal, I think Kerouac would be delighted that his book led to your family odyssey — that sitting in his room and banging out "On The Road" on that single long roll of teletype paper he was setting things in motion, including the Harrisons in their Ford Escape. Kerouac didn't have a daughter but if he'd had one and if he'd been able to keep free of the greasy tentacles of alcohol, he'd surely have taken her on this very trip across the country. (Of course some of the adventures of Salvatore Paradise and Dean Moriarty you and your family will want to skip — I honestly don't think there's much to be learned from spending time in jail. The jailbirds I've met didn't think so either. You can get that stuff from books.) This is a great gift she's giving you and you her, one you'll remember for years and years, and I hope it's gorgeous. You'll get to see new things together and you'll get to negotiate which CDs you listen to and you'll have plenty of time to be silent together and also some when you will talk. I hope that when my daughter is 16, she'll want to get in a car with her old man and drive him across the country. My only advice is so obvious and trite I hesitate to say it, but I will. Driving is hypnotic and people on car trips get hooked on motion, but America isn't what's inside your car, so you have to remember to stop and get out and walk around. I don't think our show should be on your itinerary; if you're around Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 11, we'll be at the Ohio State Fair. But your lovely daughter has declared herself on the subject of the show and you should respect that.

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