West of Van Horn, for a vague fifteen or twenty miles, life goes no faster than a headache and the depression of your gas pedal. A dulled mind pushes a dulled finger towards the radio and… nothing. You are in The Zone.
Stock market reports, farm news, and music fail to penetrate the dizzy static. The tuner twirls across the dial and except for a few Spanish phrases lingering in the spherics one might as well trade in the old Chevy for a Conestoga and listen to the wind. On the edge of the Diablo Plateau you meet the Sierra Blanc-out, Land Without Radio.
Next time, of course, heat inversion and windage might conspire to shower the airwaves with every weather report in northern Minnesota. But in The Zone you ordinarily escape your fellow traveler, radio; in fact, you escape everything but thirst and blowouts. The road is as empty as life without music.
But The Zone is the exception, not the rule. In Dallas and Fort Worth, no less than 35 locals wait behind the speaker’s facade. Powered by various amounts of electricity and advertising, the 434 licensed radio stations in Texas (plus a handful of Spanish language stations with offices in Texas and transmitters in Mexico) compete for an invisible audience often perceived only in the curiously construed surveys of radio rating agencies.
Diversity on the far side of the microphone is part of the show. Everyone knows what he likes, and on one radio station or another he is likely to find it. The Texas airwaves are less homogenized than the casual dial-twister might suppose, partly because of the personalities of the people who inhabit them.
Bill Mack talks to the big rigs, moving late at night.
Beneath the 50,000-watt clear-channel antenna of WBAP, Fort Worth, sits The World’s Greatest Country and Western Disc Jockey, Bill Mack, and he’s got an award from Nashville to prove it. To the late-night world of those who circle the inferno of America’s highways. Bill Mack is the trusted voice in the dark, a guide and invisible sidekick bantering through the road’s longest hours. As a result, few people in any field inspire as zealous a following. The boys hauling Peterbilt