How did we get along without satellite radio?

Satellite radio display on dashboard

My first real experience with satellite radio was on a road trip with pals in a 2002 Buick Rendezvous.

I had arranged to have Buick drop the car at the Phoenix airport for a weeklong evaluation.

We landed in Phoenix and drove a seven-day loop that took us from there to overnights in Sedona, Prescott, Flagstaff, Monument Valley and Los Lunas, New Mexico. before returning to Phoenix.

There were times on that trip when it seemed that the sun rose and set between us and the closest civilization.

Yet we had flawless radio reception throughout the journey despite never once changing the station. We were mightily impressed.

XM Radio was in its earliest stages and just finding application in vehicles.

We experienced some signal dropout on one heavily forested stretch of road, but otherwise the signal was relentless.

We were awestruck.

Having grown up with AM-only radios in the 1950s, satellite radio was truly a miracle.

AM relies on line-of-sight signals. Every 20 or so miles, Dad had to retune the radio to pick up another station.

A trip like our Arizona adventure would have left us completely without a radio signal of any significance for extended periods between towns.

Satellite radio essentially put to rest constant arguments between driver and front-seat passenger over the radio station. Once set, the station selector never needs to be touched again.

Of course, with the wide range of entertainment and news stations offered by satellite radio, the temptation is to constantly search for different content.

The Seventies on Seven was our station of choice for the Arizona trip. Once we found it, the dial went untouched the rest of the week.

Returning home, we were XM's best advertising. We were born-again satellite radio evangelists, talking about this discovery until peoples' eyes glazed over.

In satellite radio's early days, only GM's test vehicles had XM receivers. I bought a portable receiver to use in test cars without the service.

Today, most of the test cars I drive have satellite radio regardless of the manufacturer, freeing me from my portable unit and its tangle of wires.

I've been converted to satellite radio and I'm never looking back.

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