During the most misguided period of my life, when I thought that no higher calling than misanthropy existed, I discovered the oasis of truckers' radio. Misanthropy, as everyone knows, is usually accompanied by insomnia. Nothing accommodates insomnia better than all-night driving, and nothing accompanies all-night driving better than all-night radio.

The landscape of my insomnia happened to circumnavigate a well-worn stretch of Northwest highway that, at the time, fell within reach of an AM station that broadcasted The Interstate Road Show. The show began as a visionary thing: the idea that AM stations, with their ability to broadcast over large geographical swatches, might form a patchwork of simultaneous all-night broadcasting, so that truckers state-to-state would never be outside of "the net." This was before that other "net" came into being, of course, and radio (both AM and CB) was the sole medium by which the nation's three million truckers could commune.

The Interstate Road Show sounded as intimate as a group of farmers leaning against a fence where properties meet: weather was mulled over; road closures were discussed; arcane trucking news inspired articulate call-ins. In the deep pool of faceless night, the radio became what it was originally meant to be. Even the music, mostly hammy old country songs, referenced the solitary life of truckers.

The arena of truckers' radio, however, has become a battleground in the past few years. Network consolidation has changed the format of many AM stations, and the use of low-power FM, which some see as a perfect format for interstate programming, remains controversial. At the moment, two big companies dominate trucking radio: Newport and the Driver Direct Radio Internetwork. The Interstate Road Show went out of business a year ago. Some of its personalities, such as Dave Nemo and Dale Sommers (the Truckin' Bozo), remain as affiliates, trying desperately to maintain their down-home familiarity. Someday, perhaps, they'll be broadcasting from space, as satellite-fed digital radio increases the cast of that invisible net.

But for now, truckers and insomniacs continue to roam the roads attuned to the freewheeling dial, looking for anything that blocks out the static sound of loneliness.