A couple of months ago I was having lunch with Alex Chadwick and a contributor to our program, Scott Carrier. We were discussing some story ideas for Scott to pursue from his base in Salt Lake City. Suddenly Alex's eyebrows went up. I recognized this facial expression as one that Alex gets just before he's about ready to enunciate a big idea.
So, with his brows skyward, out it comes. "A hundred bucks of gas. That's it!"
That's it? Scott and I simultaneously put on our puzzled faces.
"Yeah," says Alex. "We send you out to do a story, but you can only use up $100 worth of gasoline while doing it."
OK. So it was not a fully formed idea, but like many of Alex's brainstorms, it contained a germ of genius. "Wait," I said. "It's a travel piece. It's a travel series. It's brilliant."
Well, maybe. Or not. But after chewing it over, and trying it out on the Day to Day brain trust, we decided it was a pretty good radio idea for a summer where sticker shock had moved from the dealer showroom to the automated gas pump. And we figured our listeners were always looking for ideas on places they could go on a spare couple days off, or on a summer weekend.
So we set about finding the best writers and reporters we knew, and giving them this simple assignment. Pick a place you've always wanted to go that you can get to — and back from — on a C-note worth of fossil fuel. Write a travel essay about your trip, and illustrate it with lots of sound that you gather along the way. And so, A Hundred Bucks of Gas was born.
Throughout this summer we'll hear from these folks, and take some radio road trips with them. Our friend, Scott Carrier, who was present for the birth of the idea, will take us climbing up a peak called Angel's Landing in Utah.
From Miami, Eric Weiner motors east, through the Everglades to Sanibel Island. He has some interesting encounters with alligators on the way.
Producer Jennifer Sharpe drives from Los Angeles to the desert town of Landers, where she visits The Integratron, a domed-structure that, according to its creator is "based on the design of Moses' Tabernacle, the writings of Nikola Tesla and telepathic directions from extraterrestrials."
Other writers and reporters based in spots from Nashville to Anchorage, and points between, will carefully monitor their fuel consumption, and present their travel tales all summer long. We're betting it will make for a nice season of happy motoring on Day to Day. If not, we'll just blame Alex.
Steven Proffitt is senior producer of Day to Day.